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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 16:23 GMT
Landmark decision over disability
Sharon Coleman
Ms Coleman has welcomed the decision to get a European hearing
A mother branded "lazy" for wanting time to care for her disabled child will have her grievance heard by the European Court of Justice.

Sharon Coleman resigned from her job as a legal secretary and took her case to an employment tribunal.

She said legal firm Attridge Law had refused to allow her to work from home or work flexible shifts to care for her son, who has hearing problems.

Campaigners say the case may help provide protection for other carers.

'Upset and shocked'

Ms Coleman said her manager had commented that her child was always sick, and had accused her of trying to use his condition to get out of work.

She said she was overjoyed the case - which had been heard by an appeal tribunal - was being heard by the European Court.

"I was upset and shocked at the attitude of my former employers. They knew about my son's problems because I took him into the office, but they wouldn't allow me to work flexibly to make it easier to look after him.

When they heard that my son Oliver had a serious illness, they didn't expect me to return to work
Sharon Coleman

"Other members of staff were taking time off for hospital appointments or worked from home but my requests were always turned down.

"When they heard that my son Oliver had a serious illness, they didn't expect me to return to work."

Since the UK instituted the Human Rights Act, few cases have been referred to Europe.

However, in this case the EU's Equal Treatment Directive's interpretation of disability discrimination is much wider than the UK's - in Europe, the person does not have to suffer from the disability themselves but could be the parent or spouse of a disabled person.

Carers UK chief executive Imelda Redmond said: "This case has profound implications for the one in five carers who give up work to care and face discrimination at work as a direct consequence of caring."

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