The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 makes wide-ranging changes to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and has been hailed by the Disability Rights Commission as a 'major advance in civil rights for Britain's 10 million disabled people.' The implementation timetable is slightly different to that previously proposed under the Act. While some provisions of the Act will not enter into force until 4 December 2006, a number of important provisions enter into force as soon as 5 December 2005.

Provisions entering into force on 5 December 2005 include:

  • An end to the requirement that a mental illness must be clinically well-recognised to amount to an impairment.
  • Provision to make third party publishers liable for publishing discriminatory advertisements in addition to the person placing the advertisement.
  • An extension of the definition of disability to cover cases of HIV, cancer and MS from the point of diagnosis.
  • Unlawful for private clubs with at least 25 members to treat disabled people less favourably.
  • Unlawful for local authorities and the GLA to treat their disabled members less favourably.

Provisions entering into force on 4 December 2006 include:

  • A duty on public authorities to promote equality.
  • An extension of the DDA to functions of public bodies not already within its scope.
  • An extension of the duty of making reasonable adjustments to private clubs with 25 or more members.
  • An extension of the duty of making reasonable adjustments to physical features of private clubs (subject to consultation).
  • Provision to ensure that landlords cannot unreasonably withhold consent for a disability-related improvement to certain rented dwelling houses.

It is instructive to note that the government has estimated that extending the definition of disability as set out above, will increase the number of people covered by the DDA by around 175,000. The removal of the requirement that mental illness is 'clinically well-recognised' before it may be classed as a mental impairment will further increase the DDA's coverage and employers should ensure they are sufficiently familiar with the provisions of the Act before December, in order to minimise their potential exposure.

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