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ECJ clarifies scope of "disability" and "reasonable accommodation" by reference to UN Convention

The ECJ has delivered a judgment on the scope of "disability" and "reasonable accommodation" in the Equal Treatment Framework Directive, drawing on the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is binding on the EU. The court held that the concept of disability does not necessitate a person's complete exclusion from work. A person who can work to a limited extent, or who is fit for work albeit only part-time, can still be disabled. Neither is disability limited to congenital conditions or those caused by accidents. The origin of the disability is irrelevant; a limitation resulting from a temporary illness that hinders full and effective participation in professional life may suffice, if its effects are sufficiently long-term.

The court also held that the concept of reasonable accommodation in Article 5 of the Directive refers to the elimination of barriers that hinder the full and effective participation of disabled persons in work on an equal basis with others. A reduction in working hours may be a reasonable accommodation, if it enables the worker to remain in employment. It is for national courts to decide whether the burden on the employer is disproportionate, taking account (among other things) of any costs entailed, and the employer's size and financial resources. (Ring v Dansk Almennyttigt Boligselskab and another case (C-335/11 and C-337/11).)

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