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Diet-controlled diabetes

Metroline Travel v Stoute

What does and doesn’t amount to a disability is hotly debated, as equality law continues to develop. The Metroline case centered around whether a type of diabetes that was controlled by diet satisfied the legal definition of ‘disability’. Was it an impairment which had a substantial and long-term effect on the claimant’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities?

Mr Stoute was a bus driver. He had type 2 diabetes, which he controlled mainly by avoiding sugary drinks. After he was dismissed for gross misconduct he brought several claims, including disability discrimination, against his employer. The tribunal found that he was disabled, but dismissed his claims. Nevertheless the issue of whether or not his diabetes was a disability proceeded to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

It overturned the tribunal’s decision. Type 2 diabetes isn’t automatically a disability. If it were, it would mean that people with conditions like nut allergies or lactose intolerance would also be considered to be disabled, the EAT said. A condition that was controlled by a small change in diet was not a long-term condition that restricted the claimant’s ability to carry out ordinary day-to-day tasks.

This doesn’t mean that type 2 diabetes will never amount to a disability. In this case, it simply came down to the EAT’s conclusion that abstaining from sugary drinks was not a substantial adverse effect on day-to-day activities caused by the diabetes.