This month, a new law comes into force that aims to prevent and reduce barriers disabled people face in accessing taxis and privately hired vehicles. Michelle Roby, Employment Law Adviser at Napthens, explains.
On 28 April 2022, the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill was granted Royal Assent, becoming the Taxis and Private Hire vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022.
The Act amends sections of the Equality Act 2010 relating to the carrying of disabled people by taxis and private hire vehicles to address inconsistencies and expand the protections provided to wheelchair and assistance dog users to all disabled people.
Approximately 60% of disabled people have no household access to a private vehicle and therefore taxis and private hire vehicles are an integral form of transport. Despite this, many disabled people routinely experience barriers to travelling via taxi or private hire vehicle; from being overcharged for trips or even companies refusing to accept bookings.
What is the Taxis and Private Hire vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022?
The purpose of the new legislation is to:
- Reduce discrimination against disabled people
- Address and remove the barriers they face in accessing taxi and private hire vehicles services; and
- Open opportunities through travelling by taxi or private hire vehicles
The MP for Kenilworth and Southam, Jeremy Wright said: “The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles sections of the Equality Act do not work well enough for all of the 13.7 million disabled people in Great Britain. The fundamental intention of this Bill is to ensure that the protections envisaged by the Equality Act of 2010 work effectively and comprehensively when a disabled person uses a taxi or a private hire vehicle, so that any disabled person has reasonable rights and protections to book, to access and travel in a taxi or private hire vehicle at no additional charge. As it stands, only wheelchair and assistance dog users have specific rights and protections under the Equality Act in relation to taxis and private vehicles.”
What does the Act mean?
The Act will create two new duties which:
- Require drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles to accept passengers who are disabled persons and to take reasonable steps to ensure the passenger is carried in safety and reasonable comfort, at no extra charge (section 164A).
- Require drivers of pre-booked taxis and private hire vehicles to take reasonable steps, at no extra charge, to help a disabled passenger find the vehicle they have booked (section 165A).
In order to apply, drivers must have been aware that the passenger would require help to identify the vehicle before the start of the journey.
The Act also amends section 166 of the Equality Act 2010 so that exemption certificates only exempt drivers from complying with their mobility assistance duties and not their general duties to carry disabled persons at no extra charge.
What happens if a vehicle operator refuses to comply?
Finally, the act introduces a new offence for private hire vehicle operators under the Equality Act 2010. This relates to failure or refusal to accept a booking from a disabled person because of their disability and imposing additional charges for the driver’s compliance with section 165 (designated wheelchair taxis) or the two new duties above. It has been stressed however that where a driver has a genuine reason why they could not fulfil the duties specified, then the defences provided would be adequate to avoid them being penalised unfairly.
When does the Act start?
The Act will come into force on 29 June 2022, and it is helpful for sectors that provide a service to disabled individuals to bear in mind these new legislative changes to provide their client base with the support they may require.
If you have any queries or are in need of specific advice in relation to any employment law query, please contact a member of the Napthens Employment Team who are able to offer 30 minutes of free advice to QCS members.