UK Equality Act 2010
Section 6 Disability
(1)A person (P) has a disability if—
(a)P has a physical or mental impairment, and
(b)the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
(2)A reference to a disabled person is a reference to a person who has a disability.
(3)In relation to the protected characteristic of disability—
(a)a reference to a person who has a particular protected characteristic is a reference to a person who has a particular disability;
(b)a reference to persons who share a protected characteristic is a reference to persons who have the same disability.
(4)This Act (except Part 12 and section 190) applies in relation to a person who has had a disability as it applies in relation to a person who has the disability; accordingly (except in that Part and that section)—
(a)a reference (however expressed) to a person who has a disability includes a reference to a person who has had the disability, and
(b)a reference (however expressed) to a person who does not have a disability includes a reference to a person who has not had the disability.
(5)A Minister of the Crown may issue guidance about matters to be taken into account in deciding any question for the purposes of subsection (1).
(6)Schedule 1 (disability: supplementary provision) has effect.
EU Framework Directive EC/2000/78
The framework directive does not define disability. The European Court of Justice defined the concept of disability in the Chacón Navas case.
C-13/05 – Sonia Chacón Navas v Eurest Colectividades, judgment of 11.7.2006
“Directive 2000/78 aims to combat certain types of discrimination as regards employment and occupation. In that context, the concept of ‘disability’ must be understood as referring to a limitation which results in particular from physical, mental or psychological impairments and which hinders the participation of the person concerned in professional life.” (para 43)
In the particular case, Ms Chacón Navas had been ill for eight months when she was dismissed. However, the court decided that sickness was not covered by the framework directive”the legislature deliberately chose a term which differs from ‘sickness’. The two concepts cannot therefore simply be treated as being the same” (para 44).
European Convention on Human Rights
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, interestingly, does not define disability or ‘persons with disablities’.