People have differing views as to what does or does not constitute a disability but, in employment law terms, the word has a very specific meaning. An Employment Tribunal (ET) succinctly made that point in finding that a workshop manager who suffered lower back pain and sciatica was not, in the legal sense, disabled.
Following his dismissal by a design company, the man lodged proceedings with the ET complaining of, amongst other things, disability discrimination. The issue of whether his condition met the legal definition of a disability, within the meaning of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010, was considered as a preliminary issue.
Ruling on the matter, the ET noted that his work involved some physical exertion and required him to walk several miles a day. During the period prior to his dismissal, his back condition amounted to a physical impairment that caused him pain whilst performing day-to-day activities. He took prescribed painkillers and suffered particular discomfort during flare-ups of his condition.
On the other hand, the ET observed that his lifestyle was at the time an active one. He liked to go on annual snowboarding trips abroad and, at home, enjoyed rearing birds for their eggs and engaging in substantial DIY projects. On the evidence, the ET was not satisfied that his pain was constant or that it caused him difficulty in sleeping, using the toilet at work or brushing his teeth.
The ET emphasised that the fact that someone can only carry out normal day-to-day activities with pain does not establish that they are disabled in the statutory sense. It found that the man’s physical impairment during the relevant period did not have a substantial adverse effect on his ability to carry out such activities. As he had failed to establish that he was disabled, his discrimination claim failed.