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Disability Discrimination Act and additional charges

Disability Discrimination Act and additional...

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Got a potentially nasty issue here with a new client.  He came in to see me when he first started.  We discussed software, he chose a package and I set it up for him and gave him the usual basic training.  Charged for set up time, no problem.  Quoted him £x for the year end accounts and tax return, with the usual proviso in my LOFE that I'd charge £y per hour extra for sorting out book-keeping errors etc., discussed at the meeting and he signed the LOFE accordingly.

Now, I've got the backup disk for the first year and to say it's a mess is putting it lightly.  Despite me showing him how to do a bank reconciliation, the system is miles out - he claims he's done it right and he's ticked the screen against the bank statement.  Looking at the s/l and p/l, the figures just don't tally when trying to allocate invoices against payments.  Looking into a bit more, I can see that he's got loads of numbers transposed, i.e. entering a bill for 457.32 as 547.32 etc.  It's not just a few, there are potentially hundreds.  Before spending the time fixing it, I emailed the client to tell him and to remind him that I'll have to charge £y per hour extra to sort it out.  

Now I've just had a bombshell email from him saying that it's because he's dyslexic and he's claiming that under the DDA, I'm not allowed to charge any extra for my extra time spent in dealing with his disability!

Does anyone know if he has a point, or is he just playing the "disability" card.  What really annoys me is that he never mentioned it at previous meetings - I have other dyslexic clients that have mentioned it, and I've managed to work with them to manage their issues, but this guy has just forced a fait-accompli on me by waiting for the first year to pass, allowing the problems to build up.  Help!

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Portia profile image
By Portia Nina Levin
10th Nov 2014 16:49

Disability

To be disabled for the purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act, a person must have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities (section 1).

Paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 then says:

(1) An impairment is to be taken to affect the ability of the person concerned to carry out normal day-to-day activities only if it affects one of the following:

(a) mobility;

(b) manual dexterity;

(c) physical co-ordination;

(d) continence;

(e) ability to lift, carry or otherwise move everyday objects;

(f) speech, hearing or eyesight;

(g) memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand; or

(h) perception of the risk of physical danger.

I do not see how having dyslexia affects any of those things. Tell him he is taking the piss[***] and should take it elsewhere.

Go on to tell him that any client that sent in a pile of crap to be sorted out, and then tried to wriggle out of paying for it,  would be similarly treated.

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By andy.partridge
10th Nov 2014 16:53

Ask him to explain

I am certainly no expert, but I do not understand his point. My understanding was that under DDA he would be allowed access to everyday services

Accountancy and tax services do not appear in the list and in any event you have not denied access or made access more difficult.

Interested to see where this one goes.

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Replying to John R:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
10th Nov 2014 17:04

DDA 1995 replaced by Equality Act, I think.

Portia Nina Levin wrote:

Section 19(1)(d) refers. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/50/section/19?view=plain

Is it not now superseded?

https://www.gov.uk/equality-act-2010-guidance

http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/employer/legislation

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Replying to John R:
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By andy.partridge
10th Nov 2014 17:09

Ah . . .

Portia Nina Levin wrote:

Section 19(1)(d) refers. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/50/section/19?view=plain

Is there any doubt that the OP is providing the service on exactly the same terms as someone without a disability?
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Portia profile image
By Portia Nina Levin
10th Nov 2014 17:13

Agreed

The provisions in the 2010 Act do broadly correspond with the 1995 Act.

There are guidelines, with a useful appendix as to what does and does not constitute disability. See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

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By ShirleyM
10th Nov 2014 17:30

Maybe this is not relevant ... but ...

An ex-Awebber claimed to be dyslexic ... and he also claimed to be a qualified accountant and barrister!

I wonder how he managed?

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Replying to The Dullard:
Portia profile image
By Portia Nina Levin
10th Nov 2014 17:38

Oh the tragedy!

ShirleyM wrote:

An ex-Awebber claimed to be dyslexic ... and he also claimed to be a qualified accountant and barrister!

I wonder how he managed?

You do not mean the gentleman that died on his motorcycle in Australia do you?

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By dnicholson
10th Nov 2014 17:43

Wow
"I do not see how having dyslexia affects any of those things. Tell him he is taking the piss[***] and should take it elsewhere."

So can we post our medical questions here now?

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Replying to Chris.Mann:
Portia profile image
By Portia Nina Levin
10th Nov 2014 22:38

Yes

dnicholson wrote:
So can we post our medical questions here now?

Why not?

This is, after all, the place where people that do things that they are not suitably experienced/qualified to do congregate, is it not?

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By mrme89
10th Nov 2014 17:48

Medical questions?
Do you not believe the client is just taking the biscuit?

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By James Reeves
10th Nov 2014 19:05

Terms

I would agree with previous posts on this thread.

You are not discriminating: you would charge exactly the same fee to any other client who provided the same quality data.

However, it would seem that your relationship with this client is broken down and is probably beyond repair. He's probably pulled this stunt before and may well cry foul whatever you do, adding stress and worry that you neither need or deserve.  So because you'll want to get out with as little fuss as possible, it may be that the easiest thing to do is to finish the work requested at the previously agreed price then cease acting as soon as possible.

Mark it down as a bad experience and move on. If he lets you.

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By ShirleyM
10th Nov 2014 19:16

I wouldn't do the work for free

He put you at a disadvantage by not informing you of his dyslexia sooner. If you had known about it you would have had the opportunity to make things easier or maybe check the records more frequently.

I would stick to my guns on this one.

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By Stuart.thomson
10th Nov 2014 21:10

Whilst I have sympathy for your client on one level, I cannot help think he is trying it on. I do think dyslexia can be a disability, although it has to be a relevant one for the act to apply (I think it probably is relevant).

However I cannot see the case of discrimination. Would you not charge anyone extra under the circumstances? Given you did not know he was disabled at the time, he cannot succeed in any discrimination claim.

The only concern would be if you failed to have appropriate DDA compliant policies/procedures/terms or you failed to use them such that you would have identified this disability beforehand. And I cannot believe even this would do anything other than waste a court's time.

As a service provider you do not have the same obligations as say an education provider or public authority. You need to make reasonable adjustments so a disabled person can access the service, I don't think that applies here. The issue is cost not access.

The question is whether you can charge extra. I think you can, ignoring any moral or other dimension,
1) you gave him training such that he left agreeing he could do it
2) it is not your responsibility to decide how he does the bookkeeping. He could have employed someone - he still can

Explain to him that you do not believe you have discriminated and that you would and have taken the same approach with other clients. Offer him the opportunity to find a bookkeeper ( even help him) who can sort it out and then you be able to do the work as agreed. The alternative is that he either has to recognise additional costs or you can withdraw your services.

If he is acting via a company then I think he will be in breach of his fiduciary duties.

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By Steve Holloway
11th Nov 2014 08:08

Don't be flippant Portia ....

I have read up on how to do the following procedure .. so just keep very still.

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By Moonbeam
11th Nov 2014 13:31

Something for our conversations with prospects..

Local authorities often ask "Do you consider you have a disability" if you apply for evening classes with them.

Perhaps we should ask exactly the same question before signing them up. If this client had said yes, it might have helped to flag up future problems. If he'd said No, then he would be saying he wasn't disabled under any sort of Act.

On the other hand, this client is clearly closely related to the ones who have given us all grief from time to time. The "disability" issue is just another way of being awkward.

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By Ken Howard
11th Nov 2014 15:53

A quick update

Had a phone call with the guy today.  He was adamant he wasn't going to pay more for me to correct his errors due to his disability, so I gave him my resignation over the phone, confirmed in writing by a letter going out in today's post.  He threatened to report me under the DDA, so let's wait and see.  There was absolutely no way I was going to do extra work for no money, especially when it could have been avoided/mitigated if I'd known beforehand and could have dealt with it during the software selection and training process.  

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Replying to Glennzy:
Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
11th Nov 2014 17:08

Nice one Ken

Ken Howard wrote:

Had a phone call with the guy today.  He was adamant he wasn't going to pay more for me to correct his errors due to his disability, so I gave him my resignation over the phone, confirmed in writing by a letter going out in today's post.  He threatened to report me under the DDA, so let's wait and see.  There was absolutely no way I was going to do extra work for no money, especially when it could have been avoided/mitigated if I'd known beforehand and could have dealt with it during the software selection and training process.  

It irritates me that some people just think playing the "disability card" gives them immunity from common sense.

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By ShirleyM
11th Nov 2014 16:00

Good on you, Ken

It may just make him think again before pulling the same stunt on someone else.

It cuts both ways. He should have questioned your initial statement that bookkeeping errors would incur an extra fee and explained the problem then.

He should help you to help him, and keeping you in the dark about his disability helped neither of you.

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By Roland195
11th Nov 2014 16:01

Report you to who?

Who did he threaten to report you to exactly? The go to response is generally "Trading Standards" who are unlikely to get excited unless you also happen to be selling counterfeit handbags.

Did the client in question seriously believe that he essentially has carte blanche to have you work for free?  

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By DMGbus
11th Nov 2014 16:49

Tax Aid

Looks like this client feels a need for charitable input.

Therefore recommend that he seeks assistance from Tax Aid.

 

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By Stuart.thomson
11th Nov 2014 23:13

Well done, right call. Go sleep easy. His threat is idle.

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By MarkKing
12th Nov 2014 12:24

No case at all

He hasn't got a case. You advised him as you would any other client (you couldn't do any different not knowing of the condition at the time), that the accounts fee was fixed but bookkeeping corrections were chargeable. He, presumably, accepted this by signing the letter of engagement.

Upon receiving the records you reviewed them, decided they were inadequate and gave him advance warning of the charges. Only when it looked like a cost was arising did he mention any medical condition which tells me he is using it as a tool to save money.

If I was being cynical I'd point out that dyslexia relates to words and dyscalculia relates to numbers so he isn't even claiming the correct condition!

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By Tomazaan
12th Nov 2014 12:25

Dyslexic??

I thought that dyslexia was a difficulty with words, not numbers??

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By Expat24
12th Nov 2014 12:38

Dyslexia Institute

You could try phoning the Dyslexia Institute for their view as they are there to help dyslexics cope and they may be able to tell you whether you are in breach of the DDA.

@Tomazaan it is numbers as well as words.

  

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By mydoghasfleas
12th Nov 2014 13:24

It's nothing to do with disability...

You are charging him for the time it takes to sort out his records.  He got himself into this state by making mistakes.  You are sorting them out.  You are not charging him extra due to his dyslexia, you are charging him because he has made errors.  The problems are that

1 he did not tell you of this problem before; you might have recommended an alternative;

2 being fully aware of his condition he took on something he would have known he could not cope with; he overreached himself.

You are not discriminating against him; if it was another client who simply was useless at keeping records you would have charged the same.  You would have discriminated (regardless of disability) if you charged more per hour.

 

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By vstrad
12th Nov 2014 21:08

Panic not ...

Having run this past a legal eagle I know, you have nothing to worry about. You are not a public body and there is no employment relationship, so it all comes down to the law of contract. The terms of a contract have to be established before it is entered into. If the client did not make his dyslexia a factor when the contract was negotiated he cannot attempt to introduce it later.

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By Caber Feidh
12th Nov 2014 23:18

Barrister on a bike

I realise this query is off the original topic, but was the late accounting barrister known on this site as CD? That would explain why his regular posts suddenly ceased.

I once had the temerity to disagree with CD in a comment on this site and was called an obsessive internet troll for my presumption. He based that description on the fact that I had made my comment at 3am.

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By Ken Howard
13th Nov 2014 08:20

Yes, that's the one.  He was miraculously reborn over on UK Business Forums for a very short time (different user name of course) until he was banned from there too.  There are murmurings that he's been back here on AWeb a few times under different user names, there have certainly been people with similar traits and tendencies.  In fact, jury's out on a regular poster on here at the moment.  Always the same pattern, new user, sensible/normal at first, and then seems to spiral out of control - clearly someone articulate, educated and intelligent, but with a drink/drug problem or a mental health issue!

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Replying to DJKL:
x
By rockallj
14th Nov 2014 14:48

@ Ken Howard

Ken Howard wrote:

Yes, that's the one.  He was miraculously reborn over on UK Business Forums for a very short time (different user name of course) until he was banned from there too.  There are murmurings that he's been back here on AWeb a few times under different user names, there have certainly been people with similar traits and tendencies.  In fact, jury's out on a regular poster on here at the moment.  Always the same pattern, new user, sensible/normal at first, and then seems to spiral out of control - clearly someone articulate, educated and intelligent, but with a drink/drug problem or a mental health issue!

 

I commiserate with your client predicament, but please do not denigrate all of those of us with mental health issues.

We don't want to be tarred with the same brush!

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By truckstop55
18th Nov 2014 09:55

DDA - not to worry

The section of the DDA to be mindful of covers ‘right of access to goods, facilities and services’.

In summary, it is unlawful:

1)      To refuse a disabled person service because of their disability

2)      To provide a service on different terms because of their disability

3)      To offer a sub-standard service because of their disability

4)      To fail to make reasonable adjustments

Clearly, the one’s which may need further examination are points 2) and 4), as on what you have said, you are complying with the other 2 points.

With regards point 2), though you cannot provide services on different terms to disabled people, including charging a disabled person more for a service, you can do so where the service is individually tailored to the requirements of a disabled customer. You cannot make a charge for a reasonable adjustment.

An action I think would fail on the grounds that the service is “individually tailored”, and you would charge someone else in the same way if they brought in poor records.

With regards point 4), the DDA does not define “reasonable adjustments” or “reasonable steps”.  However, the Code of Practice states that what is reasonable will vary according to:

·        The type of service being provided.

·        The nature of the service provider and its size and resources.

·        How the person’s disability affects them in that context.

It also says that some of the following factors might be taken into account when considering what is reasonable:

·        How effective any steps would be in overcoming the difficulty that disabled people face in accessing the services.

·        How practicable it would be for the service provider to take these steps.

·        How disruptive taking the steps would be.

·        The financial and other costs of making the adjustment.

·        The extent of the service provider’s financial and other resources.

·        The amount of any resources already spent on making adjustments.

On balance, I think an action would fail due to ‘financial and other costs’ and the ‘extent of the service provider’s…resources’. After all, you are not a large public authority with relatively large resources, where any accommodation can be shared amongst other staff.

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