A charity has welcomed Government plans to ban discrimination against carers by protecting people who are "associated with" someone who is disabled.
This will apply in employment and in the provision of goods, facilities and services, Women's Minister Harriet Harman announced today.
The change, which will be included in the Equality Bill to be published later this month, was welcomed by charity Carers UK.
In a written statement to MPs, Ms Harman said the extension of the Bill would implement the July 2008 judgment of the European Court of Justice in the case of carer Sharon Coleman.
Ms Coleman, who has a disabled son, claimed she was forced to leave her job as a legal secretary because she was not allowed enough flexibility in her work.
She won her case, with the Luxembourg judges ruling that: "Community (EU) law protects an employee who has suffered discrimination on grounds of his child's disability."
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK said: "This is a highly significant decision for carers.
"Carers UK has consistently lobbied for greater rights for carers as we hear regularly through our helpline that carers are being discriminated against.
"Ministers have listened to our arguments and recognised the equality challenges that carers face every day and the urgent need to protect them from discrimination.
"We have pressed the Government at every opportunity, and have submitted responses to several official consultations calling for carers to be given these rights.
"By putting this commitment into the Equality Bill, in black and white, carers will be able to assert their right not to be discriminated against. And by giving the same rights against 'discrimination by association' across all protected groups such as age, race and sexual orientation, as well as disability, the Government is providing consistency and clarity to both employers and carers.
"We particularly welcome the extension of protection in goods, facilities and services as this was not part of the Coleman judgment but will be an important protection in ensuring that carers get access to public services, financial services and in other areas like housing.
"Carers UK will await the publication of the Equality Bill and will study it carefully to ensure that it will deliver greater equality for carers."
Ms Harman said the Government had made it clear it would need to consider the terms of the judgment in the Sharon Coleman case carefully before determining the "final approach" for the Equality Bill.
She said: "I am today announcing that we have decided to extend the prohibition against associative and perceptive direct discrimination and harassment to other strands and areas where this does not currently apply.
"This extension will implement the Coleman judgment in Great Britain and the extension to other protected characteristics is in keeping with the aims of the Equality Bill to simplify and strengthen the law."
Carers UK aims to make a difference to carers' lives by campaigning for a better deal for carers, informing carers of their rights and what help is available, training and advising professionals who work with carers and working across the UK through its membership and networks of branches and affiliates. For more information, visit www.carersuk.org
Community Newswire, 2nd April 2009