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Ruling expected on disability rights

31st January 2008

A British mother has won a major victory in a legal case that could give new rights to millions of carers.

Sharon Coleman won the initial stages of a landmark case at the European Court of Justice after the Advocate-General agreed that she had suffered “discrimination by association.�

Ms Coleman said her employers, London-based Attridge Law where she worked as a legal secretary, had described her as lazy for wanting time off to care for her disabled son, who suffers from serious respiratory problems.

She was her son’s primary carer and wanted flexible working arrangements but her company would not allow her to work in a way that would enable her to look after him. She said she was eventually forced to leave her job.

A panel of European judges will make a final ruling later this year but if her case is upheld, it could give new rights to carers.

After the ruling, she said: “I am delighted that we are one step nearer to stopping people with caring responsibilities like me from being badly treated and harassed at work. It has taken a lot of courage to fight this case, but no-one should have to choose between caring for disabled relatives or their job.�

The campaign group Carers UK said the ruling represented a positive step towards true equality for the 2.5m carers in the UK.

Chief executive Imelda Redmond added that employers would have to look at their recruitment and employment practices to ensure sure they are not discriminating against carers.

 

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