The Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that carers can no longer be discriminated against because they care for a disabled person under UK law.
The judgement comes in the long running case of Ms S Coleman who claims she was forced to leave her job at a London law firm because of her responsibilities as a carer to her disabled son.
Today the judge, Mr Justice Underhill, rejected an appeal by the law firm Attridge Law against a decision by the the European Court of Justice in July 2008 giving Coleman the right to claim for disability discrimination. The European Court had found that discrimination on the grounds of association with a disabled person could be interpreted as within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
Today's decision was described by campaigners as “putting a full stop on the case”.
Director of policy at Carers UK Emily Holzenhausen said: “The judge really did clarify that there is absolutely no doubt that discrimination by association is illegal.”
Director of policy and campaigns at disability charity Scope Ruth Scott said: “This landmark ruling will become all the more important as demographic changes result in more people trying to balance work and caring responsibilities.”
Coleman said she was called “lazy” when she asked for time off to care for her disabled son who suffers from respiratory problems. She said this was why she took voluntary redundancy in March 2005.
According to Carers UK, the decision has the potential to affect millions of people as there are four million carers of working age and three million carers in work.
A date has yet to be set for the employment tribunal to decide on the merits of her claim.
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