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Equality Act - different types of disability discrimination

This information about the Equality Act applies to people who live in England Scotland and Wales. If you live in Northern Ireland, see our information about the Disability Discrimination Act.

If you are looking for information about disability discrimination in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.

Direct discrimination

This happens when:

  • Somebody treats you less well than somebody else and
  • The treatment is because you have epilepsy or care for someone with epilepsy

Examples of direct discrimination:

A landlord will not rent a flat to you because you have epilepsy. They will rent the flat to someone else who doesn’t have epilepsy.

A taxi driver refuses to give you a lift because you have epilepsy. Your friend doesn’t have epilepsy and the taxi driver will take him.

A beauty salon refuses to give you a massage because you have epilepsy.

Discrimination by association

This protects your family and friends from direct discrimination because you have epilepsy.

An example of discrimination by association:

A candidate who has been told she is getting a job is suddenly deselected after revealing that her son has epilepsy and has complicated care arrangements. The withdrawal of the job offer could amount to discrimination because of her association with a disabled person (disability being a protected characteristic).

Indirect discrimination

This happens when:

  • Having epilepsy means you are put at a disadvantage to other people because of some general rules or practices that apply to everyone and
  • There isn’t a fair explanation for that rule or practice

Examples of indirect discrimination:

An employer will only accept online job applications. Because of your photosensitive epilepsy, you have never learned to use a computer. Unless the employer offers you an alternative way of making your application, this could be indirect discrimination.

A nightclub will only accept a driving licence as a form of proof of age. This discriminates against you if you don’t have a driving licence because of your epilepsy.

Discrimination arising from a disability

This happens when:

  • Somebody treats you unfavourably and
  • The treatment is because of something arising from your epilepsy and
  • They knew, or should have known, that you had the condition and
  • They can’t give a fair reason for the unfair treatment

There is no need to compare the way that someone treats you with the way they treat somebody who doesn’t have epilepsy.

Examples of discrimination arising from disability:

You have a long absence from work because of your epilepsy. Your employer dismisses you because of that absence, even though they could have covered your work duties during your absence. This will be discrimination unless your employer can show that dismissing you was justified.

A restaurant owner refuses to serve you because they fear that it will upset the other customers if you have a seizure.

A college refuses to admit you because you have epilepsy. They think that if you have a seizure it will disrupt lessons.

Failure to make a reasonable adjustment

Sometimes, people or organisations may need to make a reasonable adjustment. This is to make sure that you are not put at a substantial disadvantage to other people, just because you have epilepsy. Failure to make this adjustment could be illegal under the Equality Act. The person or organisation that has the duty to make the adjustment is not allowed to pass on any cost to you.

Reasonable adjustments can include:

  • Making changes to a rule, requirement or practice
  • Making changes to buildings or premises
  • Providing equipment that will help you

Examples of reasonable adjustment:

A teacher gives you written lesson notes because you had a seizure during a lesson.

A restaurant gives you a table where there is less risk of injury if you had a seizure. (For example, at the edge of a room, out of the path of the people serving food.)

An employer allows you to start and finish work later than other employees, if you usually have seizures first thing in the morning. This is provided it fits in with their working practices.


This happens when somebody behaves towards you in a way you don’t want, such as taunting or bullying, and the behaviour has the purpose or effect of:

  • Violating your dignity (failing to treat you in a respectful way) or
  • Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you

Your employer has a duty to protect you from harassment by the people you work with. If your colleagues bully you because of your epilepsy, your employer may be considered responsible for this.

The Equality Act also protects your family and friends when they are at work or using services. They must not be harassed or treated unfairly because you have epilepsy.

An example of harassment:

Your son has epilepsy and you take him to see an epilepsy specialist during work hours. Your colleagues make abusive and insulting comments about you and your son, because his epilepsy has caused you to have time off work.


This is when:

  • Somebody treats you less well than other people, because you have complained, or intend to complain about disability discrimination or harassment or
  • They treat you less well because you have helped someone else to complain about disability discrimination or harassment

An example of victimisation:

You are not invited to office social events because you supported a colleague when they complained about discrimination at work.

Can a policy that discriminates ever be justified?

There has to be a good reason for a policy that discriminates against someone to be justified, for example to protect the health and safety of other people. And the reason has to carry more weight than the unfavourable treatment, and must be the only way of achieving the same aim.  If health and safety reasons are given, they must be based on fact, rather than assumptions. 

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.


Epilepsy Action would like to thank Carl Graham, solicitor and partner in UK law firm DWF LLP for reviewing this information.

Carl Graham has declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated May 2016
    To be reviewed May 2019

Comments: read the 13 comments or add yours


I had a tonic-clonic in March-2016 - only the 2nd in my life - the first was in 2013.
Occupational Health agreed to let me work from home typically 4 days /week.
That worked well but during that time I was transferred to "foisted on to" a different team simply for administrative purposes - as my work had little association with that team's work.
I got my driving licence back but they subsequently made me redundant by putting me in a "pool of one" when a small aspect of the teams work disappeared.
Now - the "pool of one" justification is a legal argument which I dont intend to discuss here.
My question/issue was that I was placed in that team while the "reasonable adjustments" to my work were in force (i.e working from home): while those adjustments were in place was it reasonable to transfer me into a such an exposed position. If not, wasn't that discriminatory? "We cant get rid of him now, we'll wait until he is better" is how I would summaris their actions/deeds.

Submitted by Julian on

Hi Julian 

Thank you for your comment.

I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Being make redundant is a stressful and difficult time.

As advisors on epilepsy, we have general knowledge about epilepsy, work and discrimination but we don’t have the knowledge you need regarding your redundancy situation.

If you haven’t already, it may be best to contact ACAS. ACAS offer free advice about employment rights. Their telephone number is 0300 123 1100. You could also contact the Equality Advisory and Support services regarding the disability discrimination aspect. Their helpline is 0808 800 0082



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I've just started a new job and having had a paper based occupational health assessment by a GP. I've been told I cannot work alone - this means for example not being able to take a train to a meeting, or be alone in the office. I have not had a single seizure since 1997! My condition is medically controlled (I drive to work every day etc). This seems to me to be very clearly discrimination. It will most certainly affect my ability to do my job which includes a fair bit of external out of office work and would set me at a disadvantage to others. I would appreciate any advice on how to tackle this, to nip it in the bud. Thanks

Submitted by Paul on

Dear Paul

It’s difficult to understand how the occupational health assessment has led to this decision.

I wonder if they have used some sort of blanket guideline instead of looking at your individual situation.

Many companies use the driving regulation of 12 months seizure free as a guide to allow people to lone work.

If you haven’t already, it would be best to talk to you employer and ask for a reassessment. Please feel free to share our information on risk assessments with them.

If your employer would like to contact us, we can give them our opinion on lone working.

For your information once you have been offered a job, you don’t automatically have to tell your employer about your epilepsy. This is as long as you don’t believe it will affect your ability to do your job safely and effectively. This could be, for example, if your epilepsy is well controlled.

If your employer isnt willing to support you with this, it may be helpful to contact ACAS. ACAS aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. They offer free advice about employment rights.

It would be good to hear how things go. If that’s ok with you, you can email me at helpline@epilepsy.org.uk.

Also please contact us again if we can be of further help. You can contact the helpline team directly either by email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or phone the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Diane-Epilepsy ... on

Dear Diane,
Thank you for taking the time to draft such a helpful response. I have been able to speak to the Doctor who undertook the assessment and wrote the report recommending no lone working, drawing attention to the information you provided. In the light of this he has agreed to write again to the HR team to clarify what lone working in my context would mean. He will, he tells me, specifically note that I can travel, and be in the office when others are not present. This suggestes to me that he saw the word 'Epilepsy' and had a knee jerk reaction rather than read the full details provided to him.
Fingers crossed this letter of 'clarification' should do the trick. It is useful to know that it is not a requirement to disclose if ones Epilepsy is controlled etc. Next time I think'll keep mum!
So, a big thank you for your support. It is much appreciated.
Best wishes

Submitted by Paul on

Dear Paul

Thank you for updating me. This sounds very positive. Hope it all goes well.

If you don’t mind, can I copy your comment on to our feedback webpage?  We use this information to help when we apply for funding to keep our services going. We can keep it anonymous. Or if you would be happy for us to contact you in the future about your comments, please let me know.



Submitted by Diane-Epilepsy ... on

I am now 29 but started having seizures at school from of 14, when i got diagnosed with epilepsy the school offered no support, there was stairs which i came close to falling down due to seizures, they didn't understand when i had medical appointments and when i turned up for gcses they sent me home and phoned my dad saying i should not turn up anymore, have i a case against them? i left school with no confidence, friends and gcses because the school did not want to help and i basically got chucked out early. (there is more information about how they treated me, but would want to know if i have a case)

Submitted by katie wilson on

Dear Katie

It sounds like you had a difficult time with your school. 

We don’t know if you could take action after such a long time. May we suggest you contact a welfare rights organisation such as Citizen Advice or Equality and Human Rights Commission who should know if this is possible or not?

Do you think it may help to talk to others with epilepsy? From our experience, in most case people find it helpful to talk to or contact people who understand what they have experienced or are going through now. If you think this could help, you may find some of our services helpful. Such as our local groups, including coffee & chats, our forum4e online community, facebook and twitter.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

hi guys,
I ‘ve been having siezures for almost a year now, and in my previous job ( customer advisor) I informed my manager about that in the second day and I had to take some days off for my hospital appointments and consultations, And when I finally was told that I have epilepsy I informed them about this and I felt like they didnt like me in that office since the first week ( due to my religion becuI refused to join them in a pub on the 1st week) and then after explaining that I suffer from epls I asked the manager to make some adjustments like changing the shift she seemed quite unhappy with that and she understood that she will not be able to leave me on the office alone while that’s what she hired me for however she did apply those changes but for one week only , she never treated me like the rest of the team especially when giving feedbacks she always try to add you are not knowledgeable while shouting next to everyone I reported that I was unhappy with the way feedback was given and I got fired a week later as an excuse she said because I don’t know their products enough after one month ( the trial period is 3 months and herself said that she wasn’t expecting me to know them by the first month days earlier + she said because I wasn’t taking calls whilst she never asked me to start doing it I felt so down that day so I was just yes to escape since I was almost crying) and I truly believe that She fired me due to my religion or more my ethnicity and for my disability because she wasn’t ready at all to make adjustments and she was always complaining about me taking those days off I give the small book you have for epilepsy and employment and she never had a look at it which shows her intentions and after she fired me with a month I realised from her email that she was planning to do so way earlier around the time I informed her about my epilepsy because she thought I worked from (1/08-31/08) while I actually started ln 24/07 so she said I took all my payment from the 1-31 this shows her intention and why she gave only a week notice ,
I really want to make a claim about this discrimination not for any personal matters but I just want the gov to know which kind of employers are out there , the only matter is that I do no have a proof.

If you could advise on this case I will really appreciate that

Kind Regards

Submitted by Amina maachou on

Dear Amina

It sounds like you’ve had a difficult time with your previous employer.

There are different types of disability discrimination including direct discrimination from a disability, hassment & victimisation. For this reason it would be best to contact an employments rights organisation to see if you may have been treated unfairly. You could contact ACAS, your local Citizen’s or the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

You need to do it as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits for bringing cases to Employment Tribunals and courts.

If you haven’t already you may wish to view our information on Care plans, risk assessments and reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

If you think we could be of further help, please do contact our helpline team directly. You can either email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or phone the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. 



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Direct discrimination because of disability is a relatively easy concept to grasp and visualise in one’s mind. Discrimination arising from disability less so, especially when the alleged causal link to the disability is further up the causative chain. If a disabled person is off work frequently on sick leave due to their disability, is subsequently dismissed for their poor sickness record and the days taken into consideration are those related to those taken due to their disability we can see how a claim could be framed as discrimination arising from disability. A harder concept to grasp is where an employee used offensive language at work because they were unhappy with a decision taken by their employer that impacted on their ability to attend a function arranged by their employer due to their disability. In this case it was found that had it not been for the arrangement made by the employer that impacted unfavourably on the disabled employee he would have had no need to use the offensive language.


Submitted by Ryan Clement on

In the recent EAT (sitting in Edinburgh) case of Francis Mutombo-Mpenia v Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd the Claimant suffered from essential hypertension (impairment) and, therefore, claimed to be a disabled person under the Act.  There was no dispute that he suffered from the alleged impairment but he failed to adduce evidence of its adverse effect on his normal day to day activities let alone whether such were substantial and long-term. Therefore, he failed to discharge the burden of proof that he was a disabled person as defined under the Act.


Submitted by Ryan Clement on

Aug 2011 i started at Laing o rourke as a labourer.

In 2014 management offered me chance go to college too become fully qualified electrician. I did have green card to go live in USA I give that up as i wanted qualification and to work for Laing O'rourke( my mum dad and brothers all moved to usa in 2014)

Up until 2016 i never had issues and loved working with laing orourke

In early 2016 my grandad died and i went through bad patch and had issues and stayed off work quiet bit. I informed Darren who was helpful and said take time off i need.

Late 2016 i was given warning on attendance but from then on my attendance was improving and i was getting back to my old self, darren (project leader) said  too me as long as I'm in work there is no issues, i was one of the most liked people on site.

Feb 2017 i was selected for redundancy, unfairly in my eyes and still had college to finish. I appealed the decision too Pete labour manager) my appeal was unsuccessful. I felt like i was being forced out. All employees were given matrix score, by Lowest scores were selected for redundancy. Well andrew didnt score mine he told me. So who did? Surely someone who wanted me gone

So upset i decided to email ray o rourke owner of company in hope would help. Martin Head off uk sent someone out to my site glan clwyd to investagate. That person Trevor come out and investigated and overturned my redundancy and left. Ever since that day local management been out for me (as darrem confirmed they were given telling off)

So i carried on and kept my head down. If you look at my attendance from feb 2017 to now i have no issues with attendance. My attendance for each the years are high 90s%.

I was pat tester for company testing portable appliances. Ever since i won redundancy back. They decided stop using me and get outside company in and i got no explanation why.

They try pull me on silly disciplinarys over last 2years. Then in june 2018 i had seizure off site and ever since been hell. I think they using it to make me mentally unwell and force me out.

Return to work in sept 2018 i told them i wouldn't want feel like disabled and couldnt do nothing or be pointless me working

Thats when they come out with i had to wear harness. Me wearing tether tool. No medical qualified person has advised these adjustments. I ask who has? Darren says hands ties come from head office. To me they doing it to embareass me as it doesnt offer safety.

I was getting fun made out me on site. I reported it. If you ask company they have no record doing anything about it. My friend dave worried about my mental health told graham and he talked and warned lads stop.  When i told darren he done nothing and was on site and could done something. If was me bullying someone i would been up on disciplinary straight away

In October 2018 i told work i was struggling mentally and need help. Anthony human resources, promised someone would be coming site and see me to try overturn restriction. Kept me hoping things could change.

But i had seizures twice in October.

Optima health the company used even suggested my mental health could be causing these seizures. My gp worried about my mental health. As i wanted to kill meself. Felt abosolute worthless and felt company was laughing at me.

November i was put on mental health well-being course to attend every Thursday for 6 weeks 9am to 11.30.

On my first session i asked darren would company pay me for staying off and going. He said no company wont pay me and after session finishes at 1130 i should then make my way to glan clwyd site from Liverpool. I dont drive. So i had to pay 50 quid get to site on train and taxis to get work quick as possible. I got there at 230 and we only work till 5.20. Another reason why company werent caring about my mental health.

Then i had disciplinary following week as  apparently i should contacted darren not andrew like i and all employees do. So to me looking at any possible way get rid me.

December anthony left company. So i then started chasing up were person was who was meant be coming site to talk about my concerns for restrictions. I finally spoke to sarah martin human resources and she informed me that no such request was ever made by anthony platt and no one would be coming to site. So for 4 months i was lied too and given false hope.
Thats why i asked my union to see if i could get compromise agreement.

Then jan i had seizure again. They then have stood me down ever since saying want there doctor communicate to my specialist.

So 6 weeks ago thats when darren said i would never make good electrician. I should take money incase i get in disciplinary trouble and end up with nothing. Bullying me too leave cause if he believed wouldnt make good electrician, why over last 3yrs has in his duty and said nothing or tried helping me

I was end my tether. So i made complaint to workforce employment in company. I was told any names mentioned would independent from the investigation? Well shaun and darren were mentioned in my complaint. Well person in london who recieved my complaint contacted shaun and showed him my email.

So shaun emailed me and asked me come Manchester following week to office for informal meeting with shaun and sarah martin hr. Getting told to be informal and not to listen to union n solictors and offered me 15k final offer.

I just want get enough money as im 35 and im unqualified and need start my life and career again due to how they destroyed me  but i also would love apology. I have suffered and felt horrible last 8 months. Ive hated myself. I drink more then i used to and i look tired and aged in personal appearance. I am givin up my career. I giving up job off £650 a week i get if went to work. I giving up a secure job. I dont have qualifications. I want to secure enough money to start a new life and move my wife and kids and go to usa like should done all those years ago.

Ive been told darren last year was told by shaun anything i do wrong or can get me for ie disciplinary then do it. That was told me by senior person in company.

Graham senior engineer and in charge when darren not on site as told me theyve treated me like crap and they are trying get rid me.

I have plenty other people who can back this up. They have known about my epilepsy since i started with laings. Ive had 2 seizures on past jobs. Ambulance come to one site. Labour manager pete spoke to me about it and was ok me resuming work. Company size laing orourke now saying in june last year they never knew. Bull. If you cut your hand at work you need to fill forms in. So not buying it

Ever since i fought my redundancy 2017 and contacted head office london. They. Darren and shaun have wanted me gone. Evidence proves it. So when seizure happened last june they been out to discriminate me and not allow me do most jobs and make me wear harness etc to embarrass me and want me to leave. I have told them its dangerous to put me in harness if i have seizure then to restrain soneone could cause serious damage. But i gey ignored. NO ONE LISTENS. Graham and andrew supervisor has said its dangerous and you learn that in first aid shouldnt restrain someone having seizure. But darren does nothing.

I seen epilepsy specialist nurse last week. She said no doubt in her mind the work treatment since sept last year has caused stress related seizures and said i should not too return to work while this work situation is on going. She upped my medication also while this remains unsolved as she concerned bout my mental health and anxiety i going through. I am now recieving counselling

Before june last year. Ive gone years and years without seizures. Dvla cleared me as minute chance seizures and gave me licence. Yet they saying i cant work on a ladder. Its crazy. Its not common sense. They just want me gone and discriminating against my disability. Fact.

They made my life hell. They have broke me and made me feel like most worthless person in the world.

I want to take action against them. Honestly my company and size them should never treated me like that. Unfortunately i cant afford legal fees so i approached acas who now trying get company to settle. But id rather get certificate acas provide if no agreement to go court but then id have to defend meself as cant get solictor. No win no fee are available and i dont qualify legal aid. But ill keep fighting for justice.


Submitted by David cross on

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