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How the Equality Act affects carers

The Equality Act includes new measures to protect carers of disabled or elderly people from discrimination and harassment. This type of discrimination is sometimes called “discrimination by association”. The carer is discriminated against because they are associated with a disabled or elderly person. See the Disabled people section, above, for more details of who is classed as being disabled.

The Government Equalities Office has worked with Citizens Advice Bureau to produce a guide to the Equality Act for carers (PDF, 232Kb) as well as a general guide to the Equality Act (PDF, 212Kb).

The new measures to protect carers don’t apply to carers of people who aren’t disabled or elderly. For information about rights that apply to all carers, see our Guide to carers’ rights.

Protection for carers at work

If you’re caring for someone who’s disabled or elderly, the Equality Act protects you from direct discrimination and harassment at work due to your caring responsibilities.

Direct discrimination could include an employer:

  • refusing to offer you a job because of your caring role
  • treating you less favourably because of your caring role

Harassment at work could include:

  • impractical or unfair work expectations
  • offensive language or jokes
  • pressurising or intimidating behaviour

If you have been discriminated against at work and you can’t resolve the problem with your employer, you can take your case to an employment tribunal. There are strict deadlines for doing this – usually three months. It’s a good idea to seek advice before doing this.

Protection for carers when buying goods or using services

If you’re caring for someone who’s disabled, you’re also protected against direct discrimination and harassment when buying goods or using services. Goods and services include:

  • entertainment venues such as cinemas, pubs, cafes and football grounds
  • businesses such as shops or banks
  • public service providers such as schools, social services, GPs, hospitals or job centres

Direct discrimination when you’re buying goods or using services could include someone:

  • providing you with a worse service than someone who isn’t caring for a disabled person
  • discouraging you from using a service because of your caring role
  • making it impossible for you to use a service because of your caring role.

Harassment in this situation could include:

  • offensive name-calling or jokes
  • unwanted or patronising assistance
  • pressurising or intimidating behaviour

If you’ve been discriminated against or harassed because you care for a disabled person, you can complain to the service provider or business, using their complaints procedure if they have one.

If you’re not satisfied, you can complain to a regulatory body that deals with that service, for example the Care Quality Commission which regulates health and care services.

If the issue still isn’t resolved, the next step would be to take the service provider or business to court. It’s advisable to seek legal advice before doing this.

Carers of elderly people aren’t currently protected against direct discrimination or harassment outside work. They won’t be protected until new parts of the Equality Bill come into effect in the future.

Protection against victimisation

The Equality Act also protects carers of disabled or elderly people from being treated unfavourably if they make a complaint about discrimination or harassment.

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Southwark Carers
3rd Floor, Walworth Methodist Church,
54 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0EN
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020 7708 4497

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Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).

Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle

Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45