Definition of Disability

The definition of ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010 is a person who:

i) has a physical or mental impairment;

ii) the impairment has (1) a substantial and (2) long-term adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day-to-day activities.

For the purposes of the Act, these words have the following meanings:

i) substantial means more than minor or trivial;

ii) ‘long-term’ means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions);

iii) ‘normal day-to-day activities’ include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping.

A person who has had a disability in the past that meets this definition, is also protected by the Equality Act 2010.

In Ministry of Defence v Hay (2008) Mr Justice Langstaff, sitting in the EAT, reminds us that the concept of disability in the Act is not a medical model, but a ‘functional’ model because the definition focuses on ‘impairment’. An ‘impairment’ is not the same as a ‘disability’. It is directed towards what a claimant cannot, or can no longer do at a practical level. Thus a constellation of symptoms which lasted over 12 months, even though the precise disability on which the claim was based according to expert evidence would have lasted less than 12 months, can be regarded as a combination of impairments with different effects, to different extents, over periods of time which overlapped and which constitutes a qualifying disability.

List of Recognised Disabilities By Employment Tribunals

Agoraphobia: Mental Impairment

Arthritis: Physical Impairment

Asthma: Physical impairment

Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Mental impairment

Back Impairment: Physical Impairment


Cerebral Palsy: Physical Impairment

Depression: Mental Impairment

Diabetes: Physical Impairment

Disfigurement: Both

Dyslexia: Mental Impairment

Epilepsy: Physical Impairment

Hearing Impairment: Physical Impairment

Heart Impairment: Physical Impairment


Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Physical Impairment

Learning Disability/Difficulties: Mental Impairment

M.E or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Both

Mental Health Issues / Mental Impairments: = Manic Depression, Bi-Polar Affective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, Panic Attacks.

Migraine: Physical Impairment

Mobility Impairment: Physical Impairment

Multiple Sclerosis:

RSI: Physical Impairment

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Both

Shoulder, Arm, Hand Impairment: Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment: Physical Impairment

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