Electro-Sensitivity and Disability Discrimination (Equality Act, 2010)
I am writing to support the person who has given you this letter. He/she suffers from Electro-hyper-sensitivity (EHS), a condition which can be severely disabling, where electrical and wireless devices can cause a wide range of serious symptoms.
The following background information may be helpful.
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires a general duty of care from every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all employees, and that persons not in his/her employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety (2(1),3).
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require competent people to fulfil statutory responsibilities, risk assessments and appropriate health surveillance, such as Occupational Health Advisors.
- The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by UK, 2009) prohibits all discrimination on the basis of disability, and requires all appropriate steps to provide reasonable accommodation (Article 5.2-3). Canada, Sweden and the USA list EHS among disabilities.
- The UK’s Equality Act 2010 requires reasonable steps to avoid disadvantage from physical features which disadvantage a disabled person (). For recruitment, an employer can only ask about disability if there are job requirements which cannot be met with reasonable adjustments ().
- The UK’s Flexible Working Regulations (2014) allow employees to request changes to their work arrangements to suit their needs.
- The EUROPAEM EMF Guidelines (2016) give limits for sensitive people.
- The HSE’s “Electromagnetic Fields at Work: A guide to the Control of EMFs atWork Regulations: 2016”, for ‘employees at particular risk’ (e.g. expectant mothers and people with EHS) requires the employer, when informed, (i) to undertake a risk assessment and (ii) to make reasonable adjustments.
‘Reasonable adjustments’, made by employers for people disabled by Electrosensitivity in schools, hospitals, offices and transport, include:
- Switching off WiFi and using a wired network instead.
- Banning the use of mobile phones and iPads or other wireless devices.
- Shielding an office or workplace by using protective paint and netting. The USA’s Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has some useful ideas on ‘Accommodations for Electrosensitivity’.
Law-courts and tribunals around the world, including the UK, increasingly award financial compensation for Electro-sensitive individuals. These are cases of unlawful discrimination because of a disabling environment caused by high levels of EM exposure, and where not making reasonable adjustments is seen as discrimination. Individuals in the UK have been awarded ESA or JSA exemptions because of EHS.
As a charity we aim to work with schools, employers and providers of public facilities like shops, libraries and transport, to enable people with this disability to lead full lives like other members of society, as required by the Equality Act 2010. We are especially concerned that (a) children can fully access a normal school education, (b) the ill or elderly can access surgeries and hospitals, (c) employees can remain in employment, and (d) people with EHS can stay in their homes.
We can be contacted through our helpline (0845 643 9748: recorded message for call-back), by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the address above.
Chair of Trustees, ElectroSensitivity UK
The condition of Electro-(hyper-)sensitivity was first described in the medical literature in the 1930s when radio, radar and electrical appliances became common. It is also known as Microwave Illness, Radio Wave Sickness, or Ideopathic Environmental Intolerance attributed to Electro-Magnetic Fields.
Some 3.1-3.8% of the general population have moderate Electro-sensitivity. In comparison, 1.3-1.8% of UK children suffer from nut or anaphylactic allergies.
The ICNIRP, which the UK government says it follows, warned governments in 2002 that some people need non-thermal limits lower than its 1998 heating limits.
The European Parliament in 2009 voted that the ICNIRP’s heating limits, still used in the UK, were ‘obsolete’ and should be replaced by biological limits.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted in 2011 for governments to provide ‘white zones’ (free of wireless radiation) for Electro-sensitive people.
Biological limits are given in the EUROPAEM EMF Guidelines (2016); see (f) above.
The World Health Organizationrecognises the symptoms of Electro-sensitivity (e.g. severe headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness, pains in limbs, memory loss, tinnitus, etc.) as ‘real’ and that they can be ‘disabling’. Also coming under the Equality Act of 2010 is the separate disabling condition of Electrophobia or psychological fear, with which physical Electro-sensitivity is sometimes confused.
The WordHealth Organization’s IARC classifies radiation like WiFi and from mobile phones as a 2B possible cancer agent; it also has known neurological effects.
See ES-UK Selected Studies and Rev Envir Health (2015) for detailed studies.
Useful websites: ;;;-;
The Bioinitiative Report of 2012 provides detailed information on biological effects of low-level non-ionising radiation
Trustees: Michael Bevington, Sarah Dacre, Brian Stein CBE, Dr Andrew Tresidder, Phil Watts
Medical Advisers: Dr Stephen Brooke, Dr Dietrich Klinghardt, Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe
Scientific Advisers: Dr Andrew Goldsworthy, Dr Magda Havas, Professor Denis Henshaw, Professor Olle Johansson
Attachments: Disability Letter Oct 2016
Tel: 0845 643 9748