Thank you very much for clarifying. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues you have experienced in your situation.
You are correct that the employer does not have to ask you for evidence or exemption certificates to justify why you are not able to wear a mask. If they insist on it or treat you detrimentally as a result, including forcing you to wear a mask and not giving you work if you refuse, that could amount to potential disability discrimination .
However, that will only be possible if you are classified as disabled to start with. 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. The most obvious adjustment here would be the exemption from wearing a face mask.
If you wanted to take it further you would be looking at an Employment Tribunal claim for disability discrimination .
Before a claim can be made against the employer in the Employment Tribunal, the affected employee would be required to participate in a process known as ‘early conciliation’, which is administered through the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
The purpose of this process is to allow ACAS to mediate between the employee and their employer to agree on an out-of-court settlement in order to avoid the need for legal action in the Employment Tribunal. The employer does not have to engage in these discussions and the process is voluntary for them. If they refuse to participate, or the conciliation is unsuccessful, the employee will be issued with a certificate by ACAS allowing them to make a claim.
However, if a settlement is reached, the employee would officially agree not to proceed with the claim in return for the agreed financial settlement. Other terms can also be included as part of the settlement, such as an agreed reference.
In order to initiate the early conciliation procedure, ACAS must be contacted, 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(###) ###-#### They will explain the process and what happens next and get the ball rolling on your behalf.
If the early conciliation process was not successful, ACAS have issued a certificate to confirm that and you still wanted to make a formal claim in the Employment Tribunal, the claim can be initiated via the following link: