Your protections under the Equality Act


The Equality Act states that you must not be discriminated against on the basis of disability in a number of circumstances:

  • That you have a disability.
  • Someone thinks you have a disability. This is known as discrimination by perception.
  • You are connected (for example related) to someone with a disability. This is known as discrimination by association.
  • Where you are discriminated against due to an issue arising from your disability e.g. a request for time off for a medical appointment.
  • Being asked questions at an audition/interview which are designed to screen out applicants with a disability.

How does the Equality Act define a disability?

In the Equality Act a disability means a physical or a mental condition which has a substantial and long-term impact on your ability to do normal day-to-day activities. 

The definition of disability in the Equality Act includes progressive conditions - including HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis - even if you are able to carry out normal, day-to-day activities. At the point where you are diagnosed as having a progressive condition, you are covered by the Act on the basis of having the condition. 

The Equality Act protection from discrimination also extends to any form of disability that you no longer have. For example, you may have had an extended period with a mental health condition that you have now recovered from. The Act will seek to protect you from any discrimination you may face due to that prior disability. 

Reasonable adjustments needed to work

The Equality Act requires employers and organisers to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people can access jobs and services. A failure to provide reasonable adjustments may be an act of discrimination. 

What's reasonable depends on a number of factors, including the resources available to the organisation making the adjustment.

If you have a concern around a failure to make a reasonable adjustment to either gain work or stay in work you should seek advice from Equity as soon as possible.

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Access to Work Fund

The Access to Work fund provides grants to help people get to work, or stay in work, where they have a physical or mental condition or a disability. Find out more and how to apply on our Access to Work page.

Access to Work

Circumstances where being treated differently due to a disability is lawful

The protected characteristic of disability is unique in the Equality Act. This is because it acknowledges that there are some circumstances where a disabled person can be treated more favourably that a non-disabled person, and that this is lawful.

For example, when a producer is required to fund reasonable adjustments, for example, meeting the cost of transport. This may require expenditure not available to non-disabled cast and crew, but this is lawful.

Secondly, an employer or producer can adopt positive action measures. For example, they may actively encourages applicants for work who are Deaf or disabled, and ensure that all necessary reasonable adjustments are in place for successful applicants.

Additionally, the Equality Act does allow employers and producers to argue that an occupational requirement of a role requires a specific experience. For example, the role may require experience of hearing or sight loss as this is intrinsic to the authentic portrayal of a character.

The Equality Act does allow however for instances where different treatment based on disability is lawful. This may be where the producer or engager, can argue that the difference in treatment is objectively justified.

This may be, for example, in seeking to cast a character with a specific capacity for mobility where there is a limitation placed on those with mobility impairments to apply.

However, we would challenge any objective justification or occupational requirement where we felt the discrimination faced by a member or members was unlawful. We would also request that reasonable adjustments and positive action measures are considered to remove unnecessary barriers to gaining work.

You should contact us at the earliest opportunity to discuss any concerns regarding discrimination you face, or may face without the adoption of reasonable adjustments.

Our work to combat disability discrimination

Addressing the exclusion and discrimination faced by Equity members who are Deaf and disabled is one of our most urgent priorities. The focus is led by the Deaf and Disabled Members Committee (DDMC). Here are examples of our work addressing disability-related discrimination.

Find out more about our Deaf and Disabled Members Committee
Guide to casting and working with autistic artists 

For the creative industries on good practice in working with autistic artists. The guide is for casting directors, producers, educational establishments, stage managers and all those who work within the industry. It provides insight on how inclusion in the arts can be achieved for autistic people. Read the guide

Member activism improves Spolights relationship with deaf and disabled artists

With the support of Equity, activist Daneka Etchells successfully campaigned for Spotlight to remove barriers preventing disabled members accessing their Deaf and disabled members discount. See our news article for more details.

Supporting Channel Four to implement its Disability Code of Portrayal

Equity’s Deaf and Disabled Members Committee (DDMC) is supporting Channel 4 to implement its radical Disability Code of Portrayal. The Code commits C4 to improved commissioning of original content that features Deaf and disabled people and to ensuring authentic portrayal in this programming. It’s a significant outcome of C4’s Engage & Enable disability strategy.

  • Equity’s DDMC is liaising with C4’s Ally Castle, Creative Diversity & Disability Lead, to support casting through access to Equity’s Deaf and disabled membership.
  • Working with partner bodies like Deaf and Disabled People in TV (DDTV) and Underlying Health Condition (UC) and sister trade unions Equity’s DDMC will support C4 to engage with Deaf and disabled writers and directors

Go to Channel 4 website to read the Disability Code of Portrayal and Engage & Enable disability strategy.

Supporting ITV’s Diversity Acceleration Plan

ITV’s Diversity Acceleration Plan contains commitments to improve on-screen representation of Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people to 12% by the end of 2022. Working with Ade Rawcliffe, Group Director of Diversity & Inclusion at ITV, the DDMC will support ITV in meeting this target.

Find out more about ITV's Diversity Acceleration Plan 

Developing Industry Guidance on Reasonable Adjustments for Self-tapes

Our guidance for self-tape and Zoom auditions was developed to put an end to unrealistic deadlines and overly long scripts that have been an issue with self-tape auditions in the past.

The DDMC have also DDMC produced an industry guide to reasonable adjustments when requesting self-tapes. It highlights the need to make reasonable adjustments to ensure Deaf and disabled workers not disadvantaged when seeking work.

View Equity's Guidance for self-tape and Zoom auditions

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Further advice

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Dignity at work

Advice if you are being bullied, harassed or treated unfairly at work – and if you’re experiencing abuse at home.