As a parent or carer of a child with special educational needs or disabilities, you may face unique challenges in the workplace. Understanding your rights and protections under employment law is crucial. 

The Equality Act 2010 provides a framework to prevent discrimination against individuals with protected characteristics. One important aspect of this legislation is associative discrimination, which can affect you as a parent or carer.

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly due to a protected characteristic. The nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 are:

What is Associative Discrimination?

Associative discrimination is a form of discrimination where the treatment the employee is exposed to isn’t due to them having the relevant protected characteristic, but someone they associate with.  Associative discrimination doesn’t apply to all types of discrimination but it does apply for direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and harassment.. This was confirmed in the Coleman v Attridge Law case in the European Court of Justice.

Examples of Associative Discrimination

A good example of associative (direct) discrimination in the field of parenting a child with special educational needs would be being promised a promotion which is then removed following your disclosure that your child has additional needs, as the management feel you would not be able to cope with the additional responsibility. We see this happen a lot to the families we support.

Protecting Yourself

To protect yourself and your child from associative discrimination, consider the following steps:


As a parent or carer of a disabled child, it’s essential to be aware of your rights under employment law. Associative discrimination is a real concern, but with knowledge and proactive steps, you can protect yourself and your child from unfair treatment in the workplace.

We previously held a popular webinar on “Understanding Associative Discrimination and Employment Law” hosted by Precept HR, an award winning, leading HR and Legal Service specialising in employment law. This topic is vital for all parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities, so we’ll be sure to update you when we plan similar webinars in future – make sure to follow us!

Our online events are be recorded for ticketholders. If you miss booking a ticket you can watch the webinar again at a time that suits you on our Sunshine Academy, our one-stop online portal for SEND information and education.

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