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Brentwood Council hit the headlines this week as a disabled golfer was required to prove his disability prior to using one of its golf courses. The one-legged golfer was told he had to medically prove, through a letter from his doctor, that he was disabled prior to being able use his adapted buggy on the course greens despite him having another form of evidence; a European Disabled Golf Association card.
Indirect discrimination occurs where a practice, policy or rule, that is applied to everyone, has the effect of disadvantaging a certain group of people when it is applied. Indirect discrimination may not be unlawful where the practice, policy or rule can be ‘objectively justified’. This involves demonstrating that it is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
In the Golfer case, the practice of restricting buggy access on the course greens would put disabled persons, who required a buggy, at a particular disadvantaged compared to non-disabled persons. Whilst Brentford Council may be able to establish that this practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim i.e. ensuring the course greens are in excellent condition; it is unlikely to be able to show that the requirement to produce a doctor’s letter to prove a disability is proportionate in light of other suitable evidence that could be readily available i.e. observing the golfer’s physical condition first hand, or a European Disabled Golf Association card.
Brentwood Council has vowed to defend the legal action brought by the disabled golfer but it will be interesting to see what justification they will be relying on in defence of this practice. Watch this space….
What does this mean for you?
The concept of indirect discrimination is governed by the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act applies not only to providers of good, facilities and services, but also in the employment field. It is advisable therefore to review any policies or procedures you have in the workplace, for example in a staff handbook, to ensure that when they are applied they do not disadvantage a particular group of the workforce, for example, those with a disability, or individuals of a particular race or sex etc. Furthermore, when you are considering implementing a new policy or procedure, consideration should be given to the possibility that it may be indirectly discriminatory. In the event you are unable to objectively justify its existence, you should consider amending or removing it.
If you require any specific advice in connection with your Company’s policies or procedures and whether you may be falling foul of the law concerning indirect discrimination, please contact one of our Solicitors in Coventry Lianne Payne or Jake Holloway: 02476 231000.