Is a neurodivergent worker considered disabled under UK law?

The law judges this on a case-by-case basis.

The 2010 Equality Act states that an individual is disabled under the law if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, long-term, adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Whether a dyslexic, dyspraxic or other neurodivergent individual is considered disabled under the law will be judged on that individual’s particular circumstances.

When a person makes a legal claim of disability discrimination, the Respondent (the person or body they are complaining about) can challenge whether that person is disabled under the terms of the law.

In many cases, Tribunals have accepted that a neurodivergent worker is disabled. However, here are two examples of Tribunals ruling that a dyslexic person is not disabled:

In 2017, Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld an Employment Judge’s decision that a dyslexic worker was not disabled, finding that he had not shown that his dyslexia had a substantial adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

In 2021, Iqbal v Mazars LLP, the Employment Tribunal found that a worker was not disabled because his dyslexia had only a ‘minor’ effect on his ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

A surprising number of sources state boldly that neurodivergence (or a specific type of neurodivergence, such as dyslexia or autism) is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. But that is not how the law works. It is more accurate to state that neurodivergent individuals are likely to meet the criteria for being recognised as disabled under the law.

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