Employers may soon be prohibited from discriminating against an employee because of an association with a disabled person (eg, because they care for a disabled person). The Advocate-General of the ECJ has given an opinion that this type of direct discrimination or harassment is prohibited by EU law.

If the ECJ agrees, the English tribunal will need to determine whether UK law (which only expressly covers discrimination on the grounds of an employee's own disability) can be construed to cover associative discrimination, thereby permitting claims against private employers.

If not, amendments to the legislation will be required, along with changes to sex and age discrimination legislation where the same issue arises (although associative discrimination on these grounds will perhaps be rarer in practice). Race, religion and sexual orientation rules are drafted differently and already prohibit this type of discrimination. (Coleman v Attridge Law, ECJ).