The Equality Act – protecting us all from discrimination at work

Ailar Hashemzadeh | April 2022 | 6 minutes

Ailar Hashemzadeh, Director of Research and Public Affairs at Alcohol Change UK, talks about the need for fundamental changes to the Equality Act to ensure that those of us who are struggling with alcohol dependency are protected in the workplace.

The Equality Act is there to protect people against discrimination. It protects 10 characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. It’s there to ensure that people in the workplace are treated fairly.

But it doesn’t protect people with alcohol dependence.

Under the Act, people with a disability are protected, and while some forms of alcohol dependence meet the criteria to be classified as a disability, there is an exclusion clause which specifically exempts alcohol dependence from being a protected characteristic. This means that people with alcohol dependence or a history of alcohol dependence receive no protection from discrimination, at all.

And this is something we at Alcohol Change UK believe needs to change.

In March, we ran a roundtable event with The University of Bedfordshire and the Alcohol Health Alliance on the types of improvements that were needed to ensure the Act better meets the needs of dependent drinkers.

This roundtable aimed to share research, provide a platform for people with experience of discrimination to tell their stories, and to influence key stakeholders to agree on further action on the issue. There were attendees from both Houses of Parliament, professionals from the treatment sector, as well as experts on law policy, HR, and trade unions.

This event has helped to kickstart a conversation in this important area and we’ll be taking further action to influence change to ensure this discriminatory exclusion is lifted.

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