For quite some time now, disability questionnaires have been useful in gathering information and evidence in potential disability discrimination cases to ascertain the employer, service provider, educational institution or landlords’ position in relation to allegations of disability discrimination by Deaf individuals.
However, from 6 April 2014, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 will repeal section 138 of the Equality Act 2010: the statutory right to serve questionnaires. Note that it will still be permitted to serve questionnaires for acts of discrimination that occurred before 6 April 2014.
For acts after 6 April 2014, it appears that Deaf people will still be able to serve questionnaires on employers and service providers, but there will not be any obligation on them to respond nor can the Court or Tribunal draw inferences from a failure to respond or an evasive response, although it should be borne in mind that even though there will no longer be a statutory requirement to respond, the paperwork can still be disclosed in Employment or Court proceedings.
Questionnaires were particularly important in helping Deaf individuals to decide whether or not to make claims at the Employment Tribunal or County Court, and could also assist in settling claims early, so this is a significant blow.
As questionnaires disappear, the mandatory ACAS conciliation comes into force (see ACAS Pre-Claim Conciliation). It appears that the ACAS officer will now have more responsibility in exchanging information when they liaise between the parties at the start of any proceedings.