European Court Says Employers Must Accommodate Caregivers

July 21, 2008 ( - A landmark European ruling effectively gives new rights to employees who are caregivers to sick, disabled, and elderly relatives.

The Yorkshire Post reports that the European Court of Justice has declared that a directive banning discrimination in the workplace on grounds of disability not only applies to disabled people but also their caregivers. The ruling could result in a huge extension in flexible and part-time working arrangements, the news report said.

The decision was made in the case of Sharon Coleman, who alleged she suffered “discrimination by association” after being denied time off to care for her disabled son. Coleman claimed she was forced to leave her job because she was not allowed as much flexibility as other parents.

An employment tribunal hearing the case referred it to the European Court for a ruling on whether European Union discrimination laws covering disabled people could also apply to someone who was associated with a disabled person, according to the Yorkshire Post. Judges in Luxembourg have previously ruled that EU law should protect an employee who has suffered discrimination on grounds of their child’s disability.

The next hearing of Coleman’s tribunal, to decide if she suffered discrimination, is expected later this year.