For the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), a person had a disability if they had a physical or mental impairment which had a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their normal day-to-day activities. Under the Equality Act 2010, this definition remains essentially the same.
In Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary v Adams, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered the meaning of ‘normal’ in this context.
Mr Adams was appointed as a probationer police constable in November 2005. Shortly afterwards, he was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. His condition was extreme from 2am to 4am and by the end of January 2006 he was struggling to complete night shifts. He walked slowly and needed assistance to climb stairs, was sometimes unable to drive himself home and at times required help with undressing when he got home. When he worked day shifts, he was free of symptoms, but these reappeared when he was put back on night shifts. In February 2007, he was dismissed and brought a claim of disability discrimination.
On the question of whether or not Mr Adams was disabled for the purposes of the DDA, the Employment Tribunal (ET) found that he was. The Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway appealed against this finding.
The EAT confirmed that normal day-to-day activities are those which can be found across a range of employment situations. The ET can therefore regard as normal something that a person only does at work, if it is to be found in a range of different work situations. This would not, however, include specialist skills that may only be a day-to-day activity in a particular employment.
In the EAT’s view, Mr Adams’ condition did constitute a disability. Walking and climbing stairs are normal day-to-day activities. The Chief Constable had contended that in this case they were not, because the activities were being carried out between 2am and 4am (the only time they presented a problem to Mr Adams). As a policeman, he held a specialised job that required him to work at this time of night, which is not common. The EAT disagreed, being satisfied that enough people in the UK work night shifts for working those hours to be considered normal.
In addition, when Mr Adams’ symptoms were at their worst, this clearly had a substantial effect on him and his condition had persisted for more than 12 months.
The appeal was therefore dismissed and the case remitted to the ET.