Is an employee considered disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 (DDA) if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol?

By John Hawes | Last updated: April 27, 2019

The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 (DDA) was formed to make it unlawful to discriminate against a person with a disability in relation to employment, education, the provision of goods and services, and transport.

The DDA was set up to protect anyone with a disability. A disability can be defined 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." Areas of discrimination that the act was created to address include harassment, victimization, discrimination, and failure of an organization to make appropriate adjustments or accommodations regarding access to goods, services and facilities.

A "substantial" effect could refer to a daily task that takes much longer to complete due to a disability (for example, getting dressed). A "long term" adverse effect is generally one that affects a person for 12 months or more.

The Equality Act 2010 replaces the DDA of 1995

The Equality Act 2010 has replaced the DDA of 1995, except in Northern Ireland where it still applies. It was created with the primary purpose of consolidating and updating the prior Acts and regulations that formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in the UK. Along with disability discrimination, the Act covers discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, religion, beliefs and age.

Are drugs or alcohol included under the Equality Act 2010?

There are certain conditions that aren't covered by the disability definition. Generally, an addiction to non-prescription drugs or alcohol is not considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This was also the case under the DDA of 1995. Therefore, an employee would not be considered disabled under either the Equality Act 2010 or the DDA of 1995 if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

However, an employee many have a disability or condition that has resulted from a drug or alcohol addiction. In this case the resulting condition may mean that they are considered disabled.

For example, liver disease that has resulted from alcohol abuse can be considered a disability. The cause of the liver disease, or the contributing factors are not considered relevant. Similarly, a mental illness that may have partially or fully arisen from drug or alcohol abuse would be considered a disability.

Drug or alcohol addiction alone is not considered a disability. Any disease or condition that could be connected to the addiction is treated as separate, and therefore may be considered a disability.

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Written by John Hawes

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John Hawes is the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing. John graduated in 2001 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy. As a former physical therapist, John uses his knowledge of physical therapy and interest in ergonomics and biomechanics to devise fit for work testing.

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