Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.
- If you provide any sort of accommodation, serviced or self-catering, the Equality Act 2010 applies to you.
- The Act protects anyone who is disabled, is thought to be disabled or is associated with someone who is disabled.
- The Act gives these people rights of access to goods, facilities and services (including tourist accommodation) and ensures that they are treated no less favourably than other customers.
- You are also required to make reasonable adjustments to the way you deliver your services and to the physical features of your premises to make it easier for disabled guests to use them.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to consolidate and strengthen all anti-discrimination legislation (including disability discrimination legislation). The Act builds on the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) which gives disabled people rights of access to goods, facilities and services, which includes tourist accommodation, by specifically banning discrimination against people associated with disabled people (e.g. carers, friends and family) and people presumed to be disabled. These rights are enforceable by any individual through the Courts, if necessary.
Does the Act apply to me?
Yes: if you provide any sort of accommodation, serviced or self-catering, the Act applies to you.
How is 'disabled' defined?
For the purpose of the law, people with disabilities are all those whose physical and mental impairments have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal, day-to-day activities.
This includes those who have cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis, and those who have other progressive conditions likely to result in an impairment which has a substantial adverse effect. These people become covered by the Act from the time they are diagnosed.
- Note: A disability may not always be apparent, so it is important not to make assumptions.
Types of discrimination
There are four types of disabled discrimination covered by the Equality Act. They are:
- direct discrimination
- indirect discrimination
- discrimination arising from a disability
- discrimination by association.
This is discrimination directly associated with a person’s disability. As a 'service provider', you need to make sure you treat disabled guests the same as you treat other guests. You would be treating guests with disabilities less favourably if you:
- refuse to serve them
- offer less favourable terms
- offer a lower standard of service compared with what you normally offer.
It is important to note that the Equality Act does not allow any justification for direct discrimination. If you treat someone less favourably, the Act allows them to seek damages from you through the County Court.
Example of unequal treatment: discrimination would occur when a guesthouse refuses to give a room to someone who is mentally impaired on the basis that they feel the guest would upset other guests.
This is where a business policy, while applying to all customers, would have a greater impact on disabled customers. Examples would include:
- serving breakfast only in a room that is down a set of stairs
- only accepting written orders for breakfast.
The Equality Act does allow indirect discrimination if there is “objective justification”. For example, it may be justified to only allocate loft rooms to people who are not able to move unescorted on the grounds of fire safety. If there is no objective justification (cost is generally not acceptable), then reasonable adjustments (see below) need to be undertaken to adapt to the circumstances of the disabled customer. For example, allowing mobility-impaired customers to have their breakfast in their room or elsewhere in the hotel.
Discrimination arising from a disability
This is where the discrimination is based on a consequence of the disability rather than the disability itself. Examples would include:
- banning a person with Tourette's syndrome from a bar area because their outbursts may offend other customers
- providing plastic cups and plates to a person with muscular dystrophy because you think that they might break items.
Discrimination by association
This is discrimination against someone associated with a disabled person such as a carer, friend or member of the family. Examples may include:
- refusing the booking of a non-disabled couple because it was known they have a disabled child which they might bring with them
- making the carer of a disabled person sleep in the same room to ensure that they don’t disturb other guests.