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Landmark legal ruling extends rights to carers

18 July 2008

The mother of a disabled boy has won her case against her employers after claiming she had been discriminated against because of his disability.

Sharon Coleman said she had suffered from discrimination by association because her employer treated her less favourably than workers who didn't have disabled children. Ms Coleman worked for the London law firm Attridge Law. She had been refused permission to retun to the same job after maternity leave and was accused of being lazy when she took time off to care for her son. She had also been threatened with disciplinary action.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that an EU directive banning employment discrimination on the grounds of disability isn't limited to disabled people themselves but also extends to their carers.

The verdict will mean extra legal protection for working carers across Europe.

Ms Coleman, whose son was born in 2002, said it had been a long, hard battle. She had been forced to take legal action because she had not been allowed as much flexibility in her work as parents of other children were.

Patrick Begley, the director of Carers Scotland, welcomed the news. He said unpaid carers were the "bedrock" of communities and society. However, he warned that the ruling only seemed to apply to the parents of disabled children and that his organisation would be urging the government to make sure it covered those providing care to spouses, parents and other family members and friends.