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Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what information his Department collects on people with epilepsy; (138583)

(2) whether epilepsy is classified as a disability under the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Acts; and if he will make a statement;

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the impact of the Disability Discrimination Acts on access to employment for people with (a) disabilities and (b) epilepsy. (138585)

The Government have a number of surveys (including the Labour Force Survey, the ONS Omnibus Survey, and the General Household Survey) which include information on whether the respondent has epilepsy. They provide information on the respondent’s age, sex, employment status, place of abode, interaction with the benefit system, marital status, income, participation in society and education. They also capture whether the respondent has experienced problems with accessibility, problems with participating in society, discrimination as a result of their health condition, and whether the respondent is aware of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

A person is a disabled person for the purposes of the Act if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A person with epilepsy will be protected by the provisions of the Act as long as their impairment meets the Act’s definition. The statutory “Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability” makes clear that a disability can arise from a wide range of impairments which can include:

“impairments with fluctuating or recurring effects such as rheumatoid arthritis, myalgic encephalitis (ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, depression and epilepsy”.

My Department undertakes regular research on how employers are responding to their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act. This shows that organisations are responding positively to their duties under the Act and that employers have positive attitudes towards employing disabled people. For example:

84 per cent. of employers that had employed disabled staff had made, or were planning, adjustments for disabled people. The majority making adjustments had found them easy to make.1

Around two-fifths of employers reported they had made adjustments due to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Most changes were motivated by an interplay of factors, including ‘doing the right thing’ and business benefits, as well as the influence of the Act.1

The research does not focus on specific impairments, but when asked in 2006 how easy it would be for them to employ somebody with epilepsy, 65 per cent. of employers said that it would be easy. This has increased since 2003, when only 52 per cent. said that it would be easy.2


1 “Organisations’ responses to the Disability Discrimination Act”, DWP research report 410, 2007.

2 “Disability in the workplace: employers’ and service providers’ responses to the DDA in 2003 and preparation for 2004 changes”, DWP research report 202, 2004.