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Is type 2 diabetes automatically a disability?

The Employment Appeal Tribunal in Metroline Travel Limited v Stoute addressed this question head-on, holding that type 2 diabetes controlled by diet does not automatically amount to a disability.

Mr Stoute suffered from Type 2 diabetes which he controlled largely by following a diabetic diet. This involved, for example, avoiding sugary drinks.

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To qualify as a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010, an individual must 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.

The EAT held that avoiding sugary drinks could not be regarded as medical treatment, nor could it be regarded as having a substantial adverse effect on day-to-day activities.

The EAT also observed that if all people suffering from Type 2 diabetes controlled by diet were automatically to be regarded as disabled under the 2010 Act, then so too would people with other conditions such as nut allergies or lactose intolerance. An employment tribunal has previously held that a serious peanut allergy can amount to a disability – although in this case, the allergy was potentially fatal and the claimant had to “rule his life” accordingly.

As we pointed out in our blog on whether obesity amounts to a disability, these cases are a good reminder that when deciding whether or not someone is disabled (other than for conditions which are deemed to be disabilities, such as cancer, MS and HIV) you should always consider the effect of someone’s condition, rather than just the label of the condition itself.

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