Danish and British Protection from Disability Discrimination at Work: Past, Present and Future

Jacqueline Lane, Natalie Videbæk Munkholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Denmark and the United Kingdom both became members of what is now the European Union (EU) in 1973 and are thus equally matched in terms of opportunity to bring their anti-discrimination laws into line with those of the EU and other supra-national bodies such as the United Nations (UN) and the Council of Europe. Our investigation, based on existing reports, academic analysis and case law rulings involving alleged discrimination on grounds of disability, has revealed some major differences in the level of protection provided by each country’s legislature and judicature, but also by other mechanisms that extend beyond these traditional measures, such as workplace collective agreements. While the UK has a long history of supporting people with disabilities by legislating in all aspects of society, Denmark has been at the forefront with social mechanisms, but has been reluctant to ensure equality in the labour market. However, both countries have been equally unsuccessful in ensuring opportunities for disabled workers, and consideration is given here as to whether one system of dealing with this is better than another. We conclude that neither strict regulation imposed by the EU or national governments, nor the laissez-faire method of leaving the level of protection to be decided by collective agreement is entirely satisfactory. A different perspective altogether would be to adopt the substantive diversity theory which would focus on a person’s abilities and what they are able to do, and to gear society to embrace diversities, as the Danish employment agency Specialisterne has done so successfully in the case of adults with autism. Countries such as Denmark and the UK have much to learn from each other to tackle successfully this last bastion of workplace inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-113
Number of pages23
JournalThe International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


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