If your business occupies premises which have car parking facilities for visitors or customers, then you will be subject to specific duties under the Equality Act 2010 ("the Act") as an employer, a tenant or a service provider.
There are no specific requirements under the Act to make provision for a certain number of disabled car parking spaces. Still, consideration should be given to ensuring that there is an appropriate number of spaces that are in a sensible proximity to the relevant building and that their use is policed in some way.
British Standards Institution recommendations
Some standards have been produced by the British Standards Institution (BSI), which recommend that commercial premises should have one space for every employee who is a disabled motorist plus 5% of the total capacity for visitor parking should be designated as disabled parking, with a further 4% of the total visitors parking consisting of enlarged standard spaces.
There is no guidance to show how the BSI standards would be applied in the context of the Act. The BSI standards apply to the design of buildings and recommend an appropriate approach to meet the needs of disabled people in new builds. However, they are likely to be persuasive and a good reference point for a court, so it is worth paying heed to the suggestions contained in them. In general, it is good practice to work to these standards as it will reduce the degree of risk in being found to be in breach of the Act which not only could have legal implications but also damage the reputation of your business.
You should keep the levels of demand for such spaces amongst your employees and visitors under regular review and ensure that you act accordingly if you find that there are not sufficient spaces being supplied.
Size of spaces
The size of the spaces that you set aside need to be sufficient to ensure that any person with mobility impediments could get in and out of their vehicle. It is particularly important to feed back any complaint from employees, tenants or visitors relating to the car park so that these are properly investigated to ensure that a sufficient number of spaces are allocated in the appropriate place. If the spaces are found to be inaccessible, then there is a risk that they could be deemed to be ineffective and an adjustment order could be issued under the Act.
BSI standards again provide some guidance and suggest that spaces should be 2,400 millimetres by 4,800 millimetres with a 1,200 millimetre wide marked 'access zone' between the spaces and a 1,200 millimetre wide 'safe zone' for boot access. If spaces are of this size, then they should generally be appropriate, but you should also consider whether any further changes should be made in response to feedback that you are given by those using them.
There is a duty to make reasonable adjustments which alter dependent upon whether you are a service provider, landlord or employer. If you provide facilities or services for public use, you will owe duties under the Act. The Act requires service providers to take positive steps to ensure that disabled people can access facilities and services. The duty is to make reasonable adjustments and is continuing to evolve as better solutions become available as time goes on. In this respect, it is never possible to say the business has complied with the Act as there needs to be an on-going process monitoring progress and encouraging continuous improvement.
Landlords of a property may have duties in relation to the Act if they continue to manage common parts. They may also have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments in response to a request from a disabled tenant or occupier of the building. This duty extends to changing how things are done and to providing ancillary aid.
However, it does not extend to the physical features of the premises, such as car parking. It is also worth noting that the disabled person requiring the adjustments must either be a tenant or someone entitled to occupy the premises, so it does not apply to visitors.
An employer is liable to make reasonable adjustments under the Act to accommodate a disabled employee, which includes the provision of disabled car parking facilities. For example, it would be considered reasonable for an employer to waive the normal policy that only senior managers have access to parking spaces in order to accommodate a disabled employee who required one of those spaces. In turn, they may also require adjustment of the size of one of those spaces to allow disabled access. Landlords should be aware of this in relation to any potential requests that may come from tenants in order to comply with the Act.
Due consideration of the Act, when determining how best to manage the allocation of disabled parking facilities, should help to avoid problems at a later stage.