Code of Conduct on Disablism


1. This is the Code of Conduct on Disablism. It applies to alleged misconduct demonstrating hostility or prejudice on the basis of disability.

2. Chapter 2, Clause I.11 of the Labour Party Rule Book contains the basic conduct rules applicable to all Party members:

“No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party. The NEC, ICB and NCC shall take account of any codes of conduct currently in force and shall regard any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on age; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation as conduct prejudicial to the Party: these shall include but not be limited to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person on the basis of a protected characteristic as determined by the NEC or ICB, wherever it occurs, as conduct prejudicial to the Party. The disclosure of confidential information relating to the Party or to any other member, unless the disclosure is duly authorised or made pursuant to a legal obligation, shall also be considered conduct prejudicial to the Party.”

The NEC, the ICB and the NCC will take this Code of Conduct into account when determining allegations of hostility or prejudice based on the protected characteristic of disability. Such complaints will be investigated and processed in accordance with the Labour Party’s disciplinary policies, which can be found on the Labour Party’s website and in the Labour Party Complaint Handling Handbook.

3. Chapter 1, Clause VIII.3.O of the Labour Party Rule Book also makes clear that “in furtherance of its primary purpose and key functions”, the NEC’s duties and powers shall include:

“to establish that the guidance referred to in Chapter 1, Clause VIII.3.N [of the Labour Party Rule Book] will include the principles of the Social Model of Disability, which state that many of those with impairments are disabled by the barriers operating in society that exclude and discriminate against them. The Party recognises and supports the aim of breaking down those barriers to create a more just and equal society. The Party will comply with its duties to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act 2010, including, where relevant, those required to ensure access to Party meetings and events.”

For further information on the Social Model of Disability, see below.

4. The Labour Party has been a champion of asserting and securing rights for disabled people in Parliament and across the country. The Labour Party is an inclusive member-based organisation that prides itself on being accessible to all who share its values.

Disablism: Terminology

5. Disablism is a term that means discrimination on the basis of disability. This Code of Conduct is concerned with ‘disablism’. This means it is a term that refers to discrimination against disabled people.

6. You may also hear or read reference to ‘ableism’. This is a term used to describe discrimination in favour of people who do not have disabilities[1].

Disablism: Key concepts and definitions

7. In UK law, a disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial adverse effect, generally lasting at least 12 months, on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities[2]. ‘Substantial’ means more than minor or trivial, for example, it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task such as getting dressed. The key consideration is the effect of a person’s impairment on daily life. Not everyone with the same impairment will face the same barriers and a person’s ability to carry out daily activities may fluctuate from time to time. This is particularly true of mental impairments and chronic health conditions, the adverse effects of which may relapse and re-occur, such that a person is properly considered to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010.

8. When not referring to the legal definition under UK law, the Social Model of Disability is generally the most preferred model when talking about disability:

“The Social Model of Disability was developed by Disabled people and describes people as being disabled by barriers in society, not by our impairment or difference. If modern life was set up in a way that was accessible for Disabled people, then we would not be excluded or restricted. The social model of disability helps us recognise barriers that make life harder for Disabled people. These barriers are identified as being the physical environment, people’s attitudes, the way people communicate, how institutions and organisations are run, and how society discriminates against those of us who are perceived as ‘different’. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers Disabled people more independence, choice, and control.” – Disability Rights UK[3]

9. The Social Model of Disability identifies the problems faced by disabled people as a consequence of barriers in society. For example, in the way information is produced (i.e. not offering a variety of formats such as Braille or large text), how we communicate (for example, not offering British Sign Language interpretation, loop or captions) or inaccessible venues.

10. The Social Model of Disability distinguishes between impairment and disability. ‘Impairment’ is described as a characteristic or long-term trait which may (or may not) result from an injury or health condition which may affect a person’s appearance or functioning of their mind or body. According to the Social Model of Disability, a person does not ‘have’ a disability – rather, disability is something a person experiences. The disability experienced is often caused by the approach taken by others which fails to take account of people with impairments and their associated needs. This can result in people with impairments being excluded from mainstream society.

11. In accordance with UK law, some people who are disabled require reasonable adjustments to policies or physical features to remove the barriers that prevent them from participating in society, whether at work, buying goods or services or engaging in organisations like the Labour Party as a member. As an association, the Labour Party has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled members and others and is required to take reasonable steps to avoid disadvantage. The Equality Act 2010, and associated guidance that applies to the Labour Party, sets out complex rules about the Labour Party’s duty to make reasonable adjustments in various circumstances. These are outside the scope of the guidance in this Code of Conduct.

Code of Conduct: Principles

12. The Labour Party must be a welcoming political home for all its members, irrespective of the barriers they face in society.

13. The Labour Party will have regard to the following principles when considering allegations of disablism and hostility or prejudice based on disability by Labour Party members. These principles should be taken into account when assessing whether a member’s conduct falls below the standards required by the Labour Party Rule Book. Although each case must always be judged on its own context and facts, the engagement of one or several principles below is likely to indicate that the alleged conduct is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party.

  1. Members and local parties should be conscious of the policies and practices they operate and how those may erect barriers leading to the exclusion of disabled people in Labour Party activities. Where possible, those barriers should be avoided or remedied.
  2. Political parties must make reasonable adjustments for their disabled members and must take reasonable steps to avoid disabled members facing disadvantage. If members have any doubts about the scope of the Labour Party’s duty to make reasonable adjustments or how to implement the duty in practice, they should seek further advice from the Labour Party, online, and from disabled members.
  3. The language people use around disability is important. Members should always be conscious of the needs and sensitivities of disabled people. It is never acceptable for members to use derogatory or pejorative slurs to describe disabled people. Members should take particular care with their language about disabled people’s experiences, including with regard to policy issues that affect their day to day lives. For example, with regard to crime, social security, health and social care and, education.
  4. Discourse about mental health impairments and learning difficulties or disabilities is important: derogatory, pejorative or negative terms to describe mental ill health impairments or learning difficulties should all be avoided. Members should be conscious of the fact that learning difficulties and mental health impairments are distinct and not the same thing.
  5. The term ‘neurodiversity’ refers to the wide diversity of brains in the human population, whereas the majority will largely function in a ‘neurotypical’ way – as in, they will function and process matters in a similar way[4]. For the purposes of the UK law, neurodivergence may be considered a disability. Some members of the Labour Party are not neurotypical and may socialise with others in a non-neurotypical way (for example, avoiding eye contact, presenting with physical tics, sensitivity to audio or visual stimuli). Neurodivergent people may process information differently, especially in different formats (such as noisy environments). Members should be aware of the needs of these members.
  6. It is never acceptable for members to treat disabled people less favourably because they are disabled, for example, by refusing to talk or engage with someone because of characteristics that are directly linked to their disability.
  7. Members must avoid using demeaning language or instructions to disabled people because they are disabled and should never engage in belittling gestures or social cues. Members should avoid portraying disability as a matter of personal tragedy and pity, and not present as inevitable that people with impairments should be excluded from society or otherwise deserve fewer opportunities in life.
  8. Members should not refer to disabled people as though they are not present or cannot understand what is going on. Members should also avoid speaking unsolicited on behalf of disabled people and should not speak to a person accompanying the disabled person (such as a support work, Personal Assistant or unpaid ‘carer’) instead of speaking directly to the disabled person themselves.
  9. It is never acceptable to make jokes at disabled peoples’ expense, about their impairments or about the barriers they face in society.
  10. Disabled people should be given the same access to benefits and opportunities in the Labour Party as anyone else. Where for any reason it is not possible for a disabled person to participate equally in Labour Party activity, the issue must be dealt with sensitively and in line with the duties to which the Labour Party are subject to make reasonable adjustments.
  11. Disabled people should not be penalised because they are unable to do something because of their disability or impairment or for something that arises in consequence of this. For example, whilst there may be occasions where it is necessary and proportionate for a meeting to abide by strict cut-off and start times, a person should generally not be penalised for turning up late to a Labour Party meeting if the reason is something arising as a consequence of their impairment, or because they were unable to engage in canvassing activities (for example, because of low mobility caused by their condition).

[1] To read more about this terminology, visit:

[2] Schedule 1 to the Equality Act 2010:


[4] To find out more, read more here: