Diabetes as a Disability

09 February 2017

Disability is defined quite strictly in employment law. You are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. It’s a neat checklist – in theory, anyway.

Taylor v Ladbrokes Betting and Gaming Ltd

Disability is defined quite strictly in employment law. You are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. It’s a neat checklist – in theory, anyway.

Add into the mix the idea of a ‘progressive condition’. That is a condition that doesn’t currently have, or hasn’t had, the requisite adverse effect, but which is likely to. It’s an interesting angle. And this case suggests that type 2 diabetes could qualify as a disability on that basis.

Mr Taylor wasn’t disabled, the tribunal had said. Even without medication, his condition wouldn’t adversely affect his ability to carry out normal daily activities. And there was only a small chance of his type 2 diabetes progressing – especially if he followed advice on diet, lifestyle and exercise.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed Mr Taylor’s appeal. More medical evidence was needed as to whether or not Mr Taylor’s diabetes could be considered to be a progressive condition. The big question for the experts to answer is around the likelihood of his condition worsening. That will be key to the decision the tribunal makes when it hears the case again.

The important point for employers is that even though a person doesn’t appear to satisfy the definition of disability now, their prognosis is relevant. Type 2 diabetes – and other conditions that may not currently have a substantial effect on daily life – could be a disability. It’s a reason to ask medical experts to advise very carefully on the future, not just on the current and the past.


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