The Equality Act protects you against unfair treatment in the workplace, and when you’re out and about, if your hearing loss fits the definition of a disability.
The Equality Act 2010 is the law that bans discrimination (unfair treatment) and helps achieve equal opportunities in the workplace and in wider society.
Before it was passed in 2010, disability discrimination came under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).
The Act applies in England, Wales and Scotland but not Northern Ireland, where the DDA still applies.
The Equality Act protects people against unfair treatment (discrimination) because of their:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
What disability means in the Equality Act
The Equality Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
If you have hearing loss, this would include difficulty hearing and understanding another person speaking clearly over the telephone (when the telephone is not affected by bad reception), and difficulty understanding or following simple verbal instructions.
You fit the definition of disability if:
- If you’re profoundly deaf and use British Sign Language you’re likely to fit this definition of disability
- If you wear hearing aids you may fit the definition, depending on the situation
- If you have minor hearing loss, you’re unlikely to fit the definition.
How the Equality Act protects you from discrimination
The Act puts legal responsibilities on employers, service providers, those who carry out public functions, private clubs, educational bodies, landlords and transport providers, among others. It protects you from discrimination, harassment and victimisation:
- Direct discrimination is when you’re treated less favourably than someone who isn’t disabled. This extends to people who are discriminated against because of their association with someone who has a disability, or because they’re thought to be disabled.
- Discrimination arising from disability is when you’re treated less favourably because of something connected with your disability (rather than the disability itself). But it’s not discrimination if the employer or service provider can justify how they treat you, or if they didn’t know that you are disabled.
- Indirect discrimination happens when a rule, policy or practice is applied to everyone, but it has a particular disadvantage for disabled people. But it’s not discrimination if it can be justified.
- Failure to make reasonable adjustments is when employers or services providers fail to make a reasonable adjustment so you’re not at a ‘substantial disadvantage’.The duty to make reasonable adjustments covers the way things are done, a physical feature (such as steps to a building), or the absence of an auxiliary aid or service (such as an induction loop or an interpreter).
- Harassment is unwanted behaviour that has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
- Victimisation is when you’re treated badly because you’ve made or supported a complaint under the Equality Act