Can having Type 2 Diabetes amount to a disability even though it has not yet fully manifested itself and/or lifestyle changes may stop it progressing?
The short answer is ‘yes’. In this case (Taylor v. Ladbrokes) the EAT had to examine the decision of an Employment Tribunal which had thrown out Mr Taylor’s claim. They had done so on the basis that his Type 2 Diabetes did not amount to a disability.
In coming to this conclusion they reviewed medical evidence from the past, and came to the conclusion that Mr Taylor’s condition did not result in a substantial adverse effect on his normal day to day activities.
There is a further legal question to ask however and a person is disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if the condition they have is “likely” to result in the substantial adverse effect. Although the Employment Tribunal was aware that Type 2 Diabetes is a progressive condition they had simply examined medical evidence referring to the historical progress of the condition, and had made an assumption that there was only a small possibility of it progressing to the level expected of a disability, because Mr Taylor would be expected reasonably to follow medical advice about his lifestyle, diet and exercise.
The EAT disagreed with this approach. The Tribunal should have centred on the question of whether or not the condition would likely progress to a level where it did impair day to day activities to a substantial extent.
The case was therefore sent back to the Tribunal to review the matter properly.
This case makes it clear that an individual doesn’t have to be suffering at that particular time from a condition which has a substantial adverse impact on their day to day activities in order to be legally disabled. It is enough if the condition is likely to get there at an unspecified time in the future.
Importantly, it is also potentially irrelevant to expect the individual to make reasonable lifestyle changes. The likely effect is the likely effect, and whether or not the claimant acts reasonably in getting there is strictly speaking irrelevant.