General Requirements for Compliance
Dental practices provide a service to the public and also to individuals employed by the practice owner. There are therefore two aspects to complying with disability discrimination protection under the Equality Act 2010: as a service provider and as an employer.
It is important to note that the employing dentist is liable for the actions of employees. Therefore, if discriminatory acts are committed by employees during the course of employment both the employee and the employer are liable. However, if challenged with discrimination, it is a defence that an employer took reasonably practicable steps to prevent the actions of the employee (e.g. provided disability equality training or other guidance on disability).
The main focus of the advice provided for this topic relates to improving access for disabled patients and associated people as a service provider, however the general requirements related to employers are also provided below.
To comply with the Equality Act 2010:
As a service provider
Do not discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service or offering a service on worse terms than you would to other people for a reason related to the person’s disability.
Have in place a comprehensive policy (see Disability Policy and Procedures template Nov 2021 (Word)), procedures and practices that enable those with disabilities to make use of your services.
Ensure policies, procedures and practices do not indirectly discriminate against those with disabilities by placing them at a substantial disadvantage relative to non-disabled people.
Take reasonable steps (see What are ‘Reasonable’ Adjustments? for a definition of ‘reasonable’):
- demonstrate that thought and action has been given to meet the needs of disabled users (e.g. complete an access survey; see Access Survey)
- provide auxiliary aids or services that will help disabled people to use your services (e.g. better signage, a ramp for accessing the practice; see Improving Access for Disabled Patients)
- provide the service by an alternative method where physical barriers make it impossible or difficult for disabled people to use a service (e.g. carry out a domiciliary visit or refer the patient to another practice that has suitable facilities)
Ensure that all staff are fully aware of issues surrounding disability equality (e.g. at practice meetings) and provide staff with appropriate training that includes:
- the legal obligations of the practice and its staff with respect to disabled people (advice covered in Disability and the Equality Act 2010)
- raising awareness of specific experiences and needs of disabled people
- how staff can change their practices to improve access for disabled people (see Changing Staff Practices to Improve Accessibility)
Keep records of staff training, training certificates and appraisal forms.
Keep records of staff meetings where practice compliance with the Equality Act 2010 is discussed.
Have a complaints procedure in place.
As an employer
Do not discriminate against a disabled person for a reason related to the person’s disability during:
- recruitment of staff (e.g. in the arrangements made for determining who should be offered employment, in the terms offered, by refusing to offer, or deliberately not offering, the disabled person employment). Health-related questions (including questions about previous sickness absence) should not be asked before the offer of a post is made, unless they are specifically to determine whether a person is able to perform a task that is an intrinsic requirement of the post, or to make reasonable adjustments in the recruitment and selection process
- all stages of employment (e.g. terms of employment, opportunities offered for promotion, transfer, training or other benefits, or dismissing or subjecting a disabled person to any other detriment including victimising a person who has made a complaint under the Act)
Take reasonable steps (see What are ‘Reasonable’ Adjustments? for a definition of ‘reasonable’) so that a disabled employee is not put at a disadvantage because of their disability. For example:
- allow flexible working and time off for treatment which is related to their disability
- provide, on request, alternative formats of information (e.g. larger print, braille or audiotape)
- provide specialist equipment
- reorganise the working environment
For more information on disability issues relating to employment see Disability discrimination: key points for the workplace or Principles to support disabled works and workers with long-term health conditions in work.
Sources of Information
- Equality Act 2010
- Equality Act Guidance. Gov.UK website (2013)
- Equality Act 2010: What Do I Need to Know? Disability Quick Start Guide. Government Equalities Office (2010)
- Equality Act 2010: What Do I Need to Know? Quick Start Guide for Businesses Who Sell Goods and Services. Government Equalities Office (2010)
- Making Access to Goods and Services Easier for Disabled Customers. A Practical Guide for Small Businesses and Other Small Service Providers. Disability Rights Commission (PDF)
- Equality Act 2010: Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff. Government Equalities Office
- Making Information Accessible: Disability Information Scotland website