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Is the flu a disability?

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

Should your organization treat illness such as the flu, colds and other minor ailments as disabilities?

Are you aware of the law in this area?

Is the flu, etc., covered by human rights law and other Canadian legislation like Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

There has been considerable discussion about these issues on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Forum on LinkedIn (group membership required).

Like most legal issues, this one requires time-consuming research, which I am currently undertaking. I hope to report my findings to you soon.

Meanwhile, I need your help. Please visit and participate in the poll, Is the flu a disability? What a judge would say.

I look forward to hearing your comments on this issue and reading the poll results.

I will be reporting the results of my legal research to you very soon.

Take care.

Remember the mantra: Learn don’t litigate.

Andrew Lawson

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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2 thoughts on “Is the flu a disability?
  • Adam Gorley says:

    Thanks for the comment Adrian!

    I wonder if there is any similar provision in Canadian law.

  • Adrian Dennis says:

    Sorry if I am late in my response but have just come across this query.

    In European Law flu cannot count as a disability unless it was a strain that had a substantial and long term effect.

    In the UK this disability is covered by the Equality Act 2010 (and similarly across EU countries). This defines a disability as:

    “A person (P) has a disability if—
    (a) P has a physical or mental impairment, and
    (b) the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

    The emphasis is on both ‘substantial’ and ‘long term’ and a distinction being made against anything you may recover from in the short to medium term. Most illnesses involving a period off work but with an expectation of full recovery and return to work, would not be considered an impairment counting as a disability.