Legal update: Diet-controlled type 2 diabetes is not automatically a disability

16 April 2015

In Metroline Travel Ltd v Stoute, the Claimant argued that because he suffered from Type 2 diabetes, he was automatically disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.  The Tribunal accepted the Claimant’s argument and the Respondent appealed to the EAT.

The EAT found that because the employee controlled his Type 2 diabetes by following a  diet, which largely involved abstaining from sugary food and drinks, he was not disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. The EAT found that paragraph B12 of the Equality Act Guidance, which provides “where an impairment is subject to treatment or correction, the impairment is to be treated as having a substantial adverse effect if, but for the treatment or correction, the impairment is likely to have that effect”, did not apply under these circumstances, on the grounds that abstaining from sugary food and drinks does not amount to “treatment or correction”. As such, Type 2 diabetes in itself, does not automatically constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

At the time of this appeal the Claimant had already lost his substantive case on liability and therefore this was an academic appeal. The EAT allowed the appeal so that other employees of the Respondent who have Type 2 diabetes are not encouraged to make claims that they themselves are automatically disabled.

However, employers should err on the side of caution when applying this decision. Whether or not an employee is disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 depends on whether an individual “has a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” (Section 6(1), Eq Act 2010). The correct way to assess whether or not an employee is disabled is to apply the statutory definition and relevant statutory guidance, on a case by case basis. Whether or not an individual is disabled is often a question of fact and degree and is not wholly dependent on what condition the individual is suffering from.

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