Ciaran Robertson | Solicitor

Sign of the Times

The BBC recently reported that the Scottish Government is expected to announce how they are implementing the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 into everyday life. The consultation, published in March 2017, provides a good insight as to what the announcement could possibly entail, as it covers all aspects ranging from education and employment to culture, leisure, sport and the arts.

Why the need for the BSL Act when there is the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act 2010 consolidated existing discrimination legislation to create a simplified act, protecting individuals with ‘protected characteristics’, including disability, from unfair treatment and promoting a fair and equal society.

On the other hand, the BSL Act’s main purpose is to raise awareness of BSL and improve access to services, such as education, transport etc., for BSL users.

Whilst both acts have distinctive aims both work in conjunction with each other to create a more inclusive society for the estimated 12,500 BSL users in Scotland.

Are people with hearing loss considered to have a disability?

An individual is disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities. Depending on the level of hearing loss, individuals would be considered to be disabled under the Equality Act.

How will the BSL Act affect me?

As an employer/prospective employer:

The Equality Act already creates an obligation for an employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for an individual with a disability. What constitutes ‘reasonable’ will depend on various things, including (but not limited to) the disability, the cost of making the changes and the practicality of the changes. It could include the creation of a provision allowing the individual, making an adjustment to company premises and providing extra aids.

The BSL Act reinforces the existing principles of the Equality Act, in creating a supportive and inclusive workplace for all BSL users. The consultation on the BSL act includes the below aims:

  • ensuring fair and equal access to employment opportunities for BSL users, including apprenticeships, internships and employability programmes
  • providing BSL users with support in the workplace, to enable them to remain in and progress in their chosen career.

As an employee/prospective employee:

An employee/prospective employee that is hard of hearing already has protection under the Equality Act 2010. The BSL Act will promote and encourage BSL across Scotland, including in the workplace, with the hope of it becoming more ‘mainstream’.

The BSL Act may have an implication on what would be considered ‘reasonable’ under an employer’s obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, as discussed above. For example, the consultation references discussion with the General Teaching Council for Scotland to remove barriers to register Deaf people who want to become teachers.

At Jackson Boyd we have experience of working with clients with a hearing loss and communicate with clients in many different ways to make sure there are no barriers to communication. We have staff in the office who are able to communicate using BSL. You can read our blog post on how we communicate, written for Deaf Awareness Week 2017, here.

If you are an employee or employer and require any advice or assistance in relation to the above please contact us online by clicking <a href=”https://www.jacksonboyd.co.uk/contact-us/”>here</a> or speak to a member of our specialist team on 0333 222 1855.

Ciaran Robertson

Ciaran Robertson

Employment Law Team

“My passion has always been for Employment Law and I am grateful to be in a position in which I can focus entirely on this field.”

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