HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 cc59-60WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

I have today laid before both Houses, in draft, two codes of practice concerning the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) relating to employment and associated matters. The codes have been prepared by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) under section 53A of the DDA.

The issue of the new codes is necessitated by changes to the legislation by virtue of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Pensions) Regulations 2003, which transpose requirements of European Council Directive 2000/78/EC concerning disability discrimination, and come into force on 1 October this year.

The draft code on employment and occupation covers the provisions of the DDA (as amended) relating to disabled employees, contract workers, police officers, partners in firms, barristers and advocates and persons undertaking practical work experience. The other draft code concerns the duties, under the amended Act, of Trade Organisations and Qualifications Bodies.

The new codes will replace the existing ones issued by the Secretary of State in 1996 and 1999, which deal only with employment and trade organisations, respectively. The codes are issued by the DRC, subject to approval by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and after laying them in draft before Parliament for 40 sitting days. The codes are intended to give practical guidance to those to whom the relevant provisions of the DDA apply.

Section 53A of the DDA provides that failure to observe any provision of a code of practice does not of itself make a person liable to any proceedings, but that any provision of a code which appears to a court or tribunal to be relevant to any question arising in any proceedings under the Act shall be taken into account in determining that question.

The draft codes have undergone public consultation, and a report of the process has been published by the DRC on its website.

The changes to the legislation from October will bring significant improvements in the rights of disabled people in employment and in vocational training. In particular, they will extend the employment provisions of the DDA to one million additional employers and seven million further jobs, including 600,000 in which disabled workers are already employed, Employers and others with new duties from 1 October have no need to be apprehensive about these new duties, as they will not be required to make unreasonable changes. The new codes of practice will help them to decide what is reasonable in particular circumstances.

The Commission will be publishing the codes in advance of the legislative changes coming into force, so that those with new duties under the DDA can consider what reasonable adjustments they may need to make.

The intended commencement date is 1 October 2004, to coincide with the date on which the changes to the legislation come into force.