Protection for parents of children with disabilities - and adjustments for Aspergers

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Protection for parents of children with disabilities - and adjustments for Aspergers

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Two recent cases made me reflect on how our work championing children with special educational needs (and supporting their parents) intertwines with our employment practice - challenging discrimination at work.

In Northern Ireland, the mother of a disabled child has been awarded over £18,000 (including £10,000 for “injury to feelings”) following the loss of her job.

A Tribunal found that Ms McKeith had been discriminated against not because she had a disability but because she had a disabled child.  The legal term for this is “associative discrimination”.

The employer tried to argue that they were concerned about her potential future absence levels. The Tribunal rejected this. It found that the management view was that the mother’s place was at home with her disabled daughter and not at work, a view described by the Tribunal as “profoundly wrong”.  The Tribunal added “discrimination can be based, not just on malice, but on misplaced and inappropriate charitable intentions”. 

In another recent case, Government lawyers (no less) were found to have indirectly discriminated against individuals with Asperger’s syndrome.  

The individual in question had applied for a job as a government lawyer but been unsuccessful. She successfully argued that the specific kind of test relied upon (and which she failed) put individuals with Asperger’s syndrome at a disadvantage. She was able to point to a recommendation made by a psychiatrist that a multiple choice format would not be appropriate.  The Government Legal Service should have looked at another way to test competence.