The Law

A judge's gavel

The Equality Act 2010 can potentially have significant implications for people who stammer, whether at school, at work or using services.

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your stammer, then have a look at our information below and download our 'Stammering, discrimination & the law' pdf at the bottom of the page. This is pretty dry, but use it as a starting point when thinking about getting legal advice. Over the months ahead we'll try and post up articles bringing different aspects of this advice to life.

See also our page on Bullying at Work.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 says that a person has a disability 'if he or she has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.

'Substantial' means 'more than minor or trivial'.

Nearly all adult stammering is 'long-term', meaning broadly at least a year. Accordingly, a person who stammers should normally be covered by the Equality Act if the stammer has more than a minor or trivial effect on normal day-to-day activities.

Obvious examples of ‘normal day-to-day activities’ could be having a conversation, or using the telephone. Also, the courts have interpreted ‘normal day-to-day activities’ much more widely than one would expect, for example to include a high pressure exam for promotion. The tribunal focuses on what the person cannot do or has difficulty with, rather than balancing what they can and cannot do.

Whether you consider yourself disabled by your stammer or not is entirely up to you. 'Disability' in the Equality Act is a legal concept. It is a matter of whether you fulfil a particular legal definition. You do not need to register as disabled, or regard yourself as disabled within the wider sense. 

It may be other peoples' attitudes which are disabling, for example attitudes of employers who fail to look past the stammer. An example may be where a job applicant is turned down due to generalised, or stereotypical assumptions about stammering, rather than the employer considering that person's abilities.

Useful Links

Visit the website stammeringlaw.org.uk for a wealth of information on stammering and UK disability discrimination law.

Work Choice: A goverment website which includes help to get and keep a job if one is disabled.

Equality Advisory and Support Service: Provides information, advice and support on discrimination issues. It replaces the Equality and Human Rights Commission helpline.

The Disability Law Service: May be able to provide free legal advice to disabled people and representation where appropriate.

Citizens Advice: They can help you negotiate with an employer and may in some cases be able to represent you at a hearing. 

Law Centres Network: Their solicitors may provide you with free advice and representation. 

Law Centres Federation: Call them on 020 7842 0720. Their postal address is: PO Box 65836, London EC4P 4FX.

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