UK: Does Your Pharmacy Comply With The Equality Act 2010?

Last Updated: 8 July 2014
Article by Asfa Javed

The Equality Act 2010 (the "Act") consolidated previous legislation concerning a range of discrimination including on the grounds of age, pregnancy and disability. In order to avoid potential claims which can involve expensive and time-consuming litigation, businesses need to be aware of the Act and the potential repercussions of noncompliance. Individuals, with the backing of lobbying organisations, could bring claims that they have been discriminated against because a pharmacy they wanted to use was not adapted for their needs. This could clearly result in bad publicity. However, there is a potential advantage to ensuring that your pharmacy does comply with the Act. People with disabilities are potential customers and a pharmacy which complies with the Act and is clearly disabled friendly is likely to attract more potential customers - with and without disabilities.

How does the Act define "Disabled"?

A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day to day activities. An impairment is treated as long term if it has lasted (or is likely to last) at least 12 months. It is not necessarily immediately obvious that a person suffers from a disability and the definition is potentially very wide-ranging. Certain conditions such as cancer will automatically qualify as a disability but the definition could includes less obvious conditions if the effects could be considered as long term and interfere sufficiently with the day to day activities of the individual concerned.

Who is a "service provider"?

The need to make adjustments to buildings does not necessarily fall on building owners but affects service providers. A service provider is someone who provides services, goods or facilities to the public or a section of the public, whether or not for payment. This would include pharmacy premises. The Act imposes a duty to make "reasonable adjustments" to the property from which they provide their services.

The Three Requirements

The Act sets out three requirements as follows:

(a) Changing how things are done Where something puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage, there is a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage, for example by providing information in an accessible format.

(b) Changing a physical feature Where a physical feature of a property puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage, the Act imposes a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage. A physical feature includes any that arise from the building's design, construction, entrance, exit, any fixtures, fittings, furnishings or other chattels on the property.

(c) Providing an auxiliary aid Where a disabled person would be at a substantial disadvantage without an auxiliary aid, the Act imposes a duty to take reasonable steps to provide auxiliary aids.

What is a "substantial disadvantage"?

A substantial disadvantage is one which is more than minor or trivial and the comparison is with a non-disabled person.

The duty is owed to disabled people in general. The pharmacist must anticipate the needs of disabled people and where necessary make appropriate reasonable adjustments. The pharmacist is not required to take a step which would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, trade or profession. In the case of any physical features, the pharmacist may either take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage or take reasonable steps to adopt a reasonable alternative method of providing the service.

What can I change?

Examples of how you could make changes to your pharmacy to comply with the Act include:

  • Providing auxiliary aids such as handrails to assist physically disabled users;
  • Installing ramps and/or automatic doors to the entrance to a shop;
  • Providing personal assistance in the pharmacy, such as form filling;
  • Providing specially designed shopping baskets for people with physical disabilities.

It makes sense for pharmacists to audit pharmacies to check whether adjustments should be made to comply with the Act. Information on how to protect the interests of people with disabilities is widely available on websites which give helpful advice to disabled people and to service providers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the non-departmental public body established by the Equality Act 2006 and has responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws. This also has a website which gives helpful advice to both disabled people and service providers. In addition, the interests of various groups affected by different specific forms of disability are represented by different organisations, such as the RNIB and the RNID which also have useful information on their websites.

Action now could not only make your pharmacy more attractive to a wider variety of customers, it could also stop you breaking the law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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