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European courts test case - Carers UK Forum

European courts test case

Share information, support and advice on all aspects of caring.
European court to rule on UK disability discrimination ban

· Mother says son's illness led to unfair treatment
· Test case on EU directive and more specific UK law

A test case which could affect the employment rights of thousands of people who care for disabled or elderly relatives will go to the European court of justice in Luxembourg tomorrow. The disability discrimination claim has been launched by the single mother of a five-year-old disabled boy who claims that the law firm she worked for as a legal secretary treated her less favourably than other employees because of her son's disability.

Sharon Coleman, 41, from south London, is the main carer for Oliver, who has congenital respiratory problems and is prone to attacks which cause him to stop breathing.
She claims she was not allowed to return to her old job after maternity leave, was not accorded the same flexibility as mothers of non-disabled children when their children were ill, and was subjected to abusive and insulting remarks. She says the atmosphere got so bad that she quit and went to an employment tribunal claiming constructive dismissal and disability discrimination.

The UK's ban on disability discrimination at work was brought in to comply with a directive requiring EU member states to outlaw discrimination "on grounds of disability".

The problem is that the UK law is more specific, referring to discrimination against a "disabled person".

The employment tribunal has asked the European court of justice to rule on whether the EU directive includes a ban on discriminating against someone because of his or her association with a disabled person. If the court holds that the wider interpretation is the right one, the tribunal will go on to decide whether the existing UK law can be read to include such cases.

If so - and lawyers believe this is the likely outcome - Ms Coleman's case can go ahead. There will also be a knock-on effect in cases of age discrimination, where the same difference exists between the wording of the directive and UK law. By contrast, the Race Relations Act speaks of discrimination "on grounds of race" and the courts have held that this includes discrimination because of an association with someone of a particular race.

Attridge Law, Ms Coleman's employer, denies her claim and the tribunal has yet to hear the evidence from both sides. "Why should I, because I've got a sick child, give up my right to work?" she said.

Her solicitor, Lucy McLynn, of Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said: "Hopefully we've got the potential to do something really ground-breaking that will change the legal landscape."

what about AJAX LEWIS has her case gone through yet ??????

I dont think so George.If I find any update will post it here.
Caring discrimination case heard by European Court of Justice
15 October 2007 08:00

Caring could become the seventh equalities strand after a European court case this week.

Sharon Coleman's claim that she was discriminated against by her employer because she was caring for her severely disabled son was heard by the European Court of Justice.

A decision was delayed until January, but Emily Holzhausen, head of policy and public affairs at charity Carers UK, said she was hopeful of a landmark ruling.

Holzhausen said that if the decision went in Coleman's favour, employers would have to ensure equal treatment for carers in the same way as gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability and faith.

Holzhausen said: "If this case is successful, employers will have to alter the way that they treat carers of someone with a disability within the workplace in order to comply with the new case law.

"They will have to ensure that they make reasonable adjustments, recruit fairly, and [do] not discriminate against carers within their workforce."

Thanks for the news. I think an update on this issue should be shown on the front page of the site as I had been waiting for news. I remember raising the EU Human Rights legislation as a potential carers issue at a Carers UK conference several years back - it's great to see that it has got this far and I await the judgement with great anticipation.
I remember raising the EU Human Rights legislation as a potential carers issue at a Carers UK conference several years back - it's great to see that it has got this far and I await the judgement with great anticipation.
How do you think the human rights legislation could apply to Carers issues?
I've raised this point several times, but no one seems to think its a viable option.
Hi, Cheril the Peril.

Luke Clements, a lawyer who is very involved in Human Rights issues, feels that the Human Rights Act could be used to protect carers, BUT:

1) A case relying on Human Rights legislation alone is less likely to win

2) There are very few carers who can afford to go through the courts, and most of those who could go through the Legal Aid route are often too tired to fight. And only the carer can take up the case - organisations cannot because their human rights are not affected.

(Hope I got this accurately - it's about a year ago I had this training)
Thank you Charles Image

The Coleman case went well I understand, even though the UK Government is arguing against the case. The judgment of the case will not be given until 9th January 2008.

Lithuania and Sweden have submitted arguments for the case as did the European Commission. we are asking for copies of all the submissions made by EU countries. On the No side were the UK and Republic of Ireland, the latter arguing that they already have legilsatin in place and it is not an EU matter.

We will be using these contribution in our work on the Single Equalities Bill.