Your rights in employment

If you are blind or partially sighted, the Equality Act protects you from different kinds of discrimination while at work. As long as you meet the Equality Act's definition of a disabled person, then you fall under one of the Equality Act’s nine “protected characteristics”.

Do I have to tell an employer about my disability?

There is nothing which states that you have to tell an employer about your disability. However, you will not be able to succeed in a claim for discrimination arising from disability or a failure to make reasonable adjustments (unless you are a job applicant), if your employer didn't know, or could not reasonably have been expected to know, that you have a disability.

What if my employer asks about my disability?

Under the Equality Act employers are not able to ask about an employee's health prior to making a job offer (including whether or not they are disabled) although there are exceptions. One exception is to help the employer to make reasonable adjustments to the interview process, for example having any test questions in an alternative format. They can also ask about a disability with regards to any abilities that are an essential part of the job, for example, a bus driver has to be able to see in order to hold a driving licence.

Reasonable adjustments at work

The Equality Act says that employers have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments”. This is the way in which employers can support disabled staff to carry out their jobs. There are many different sorts of reasonable adjustments an employer might be expected to make for someone with sight loss, for example:

  • Providing equipment (such as a CCTV).
  • Providing software (such as ZoomText/JAWS/Supernova).
  • Changing the working environment (altering lighting levels).
  • Changing procedures (medical appointments about someone's disability are recorded as 'disability-related leave' rather than sick leave) or enabling someone to bring her assistance dog into the workplace (there may be some limitations e.g. in a hospital to comply with infection control requirements).
  • Making changes to a job description to reassign some duties to other staff.
  • Providing a support worker.

What if I become disabled while I am working or my sight deteriorates?

If your sight loss gets worse and you are worried that it will affect you in your job, you should contact your Disability Employment Adviser at your local Jobcentre. They can talk about the Access to Work scheme, may be able to arrange for an assessment of your work or your skills, or arrange for rehabilitation. You can also speak to our Advice Service by calling our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or emailing helpline@rnib.org.uk.

What if I feel I have been discriminated against?

If you believe you have experienced discrimination while at work, there are a number of different ways you can challenge it.

Grievance

If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you, then you could use the employer's grievance procedure. A grievance is essentially a type of complaint. You as the employee are making a formal complaint that your employer has acted unlawfully and that this has breached your rights in employment law. All employers should have a grievance procedure.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Not every dispute has to go to the formal Employment Tribunal. It is possible to resolve many disputes through what is called 'alternative dispute resolution' (ADR). This covers a range of ways in which an employee (or job applicant) and employee can engage to try to resolve the dispute without having to go to the Employment Tribunal. The most common form of ADR is called 'mediation', where a professionally trained and independent mediator is brought in to resolve the issue.

Employment Tribunal

If you are unable to resolve a dispute through other means, such as a grievance or an appeal, then you could go to an Employment Tribunal and ask it to decide your case. You can do this if your complaint is against your current employer or because you were turned down for a job. You can also take a case against a former employer. You must start a case in the Employment Tribunal with three months less one day of the act of discrimination.

Further information

For more information on the Equality Act and your rights at work, you can read our factsheet:

You can also contact our Legal Rights Service via our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or emailing helpline@rnib.org.uk.

Emotional support

It's common to experience strong feelings about sight loss and there will probably be times when you wish you had some emotional support. We can help, talk to us.

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