Thank you very much for clarifying. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues you have experienced in your situation. I agree that the employer’s reasoning is poor because the reason you cannot wear the face shield is not because you simply do not want to do so, but because you have a legitimate medical reason for it. So even if the employer may feel that others will suddenly start making requests for alternative PPE, without any medical or health reasons for such requests, the employer can easily and legally reject these.
Your overall employment rights will very much depend on whether you are considered disabled because of your condition. The legal definition of a ‘disability’ can have a broad meaning and there is no single list of medical conditions that can qualify. Potentially, any condition or ailment can amount to a disability if it meets the required criteria.
That criteria are contained in The Equality Act 2010, which defines a disability 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”.
I will break this definition down and examine it in more detail below:
- Physical or mental impairment – this can include practically any medical condition, be it a physical or mental impairment
- Substantial effect – the effect must be more than minor or trivial
- Long-term - the impairment must either have lasted or be likely to last for at least 12 months
- Normal day-to-day activities – these could include anything considered ‘normal’ in a person's normal daily routine (e.g. shopping, reading and writing, having a conversation or using the telephone, watching television, getting washed and dressed, preparing and eating food, carrying out household tasks, walking and travelling by various forms of transport, and taking part in social activities)
Please also take a look at this detailed guide on determining if you are disabled:
If a person satisfies the necessary criteria, they will be classified as being disabled in a legal sense and will have automatic protection against discrimination. This means that they must not be treated unfavourably because of their disability. In addition, their employer would have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they are likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage when compared to non-disabled employees.
What amounts to ‘reasonable adjustments’ can have a wide interpretation and often depends on the individual circumstances. The most obvious one here is allowing you to wear alternative PPE which does not impact your condition.
If someone who is disabled is being treated unfavourably because of their disability or their employer has failed to make reasonable adjustments, that would potentially amount to disability discrimination, which is unlawful. The first step to try and deal with this would be to raise a formal grievance.
If the grievance does not have the desired effect and the discrimination continues, a claim may have to be made for disability discrimination in the Employment Tribunal. The most important requirement with that is it must be submitted within 3 months of the alleged discriminatory act taking place. The next steps to start the process would be to initiate what is known as an ‘early conciliation’ procedure through ACAS, either online by filling in the following form (https://tell.acas.org.uk/find-a-solution-to-your-employment-dispute), or by phone on 0300(###) ###-####