People Management: Three minutes with - Cathy Wheatley, adviser at Changing Faces

Are people with disfigurements protected by law? Changing Faces campaigned hard to get disfigured people included in the Disability Discrimination Act, as we weren't to begin with. Even so, it's a woolly area as everybody has a different definition of disfigurement. If someone feels they have missed out on a job because of their disfigurement, it can be very hard to prove because the employer could easily give another reason for turning them down.

Will you be taking employers who don't comply to court? As an equal opportunities adviser, my aim is not to use the legislation as a stick, but to try to win hearts and minds. If somebody did decide to take an employer to court, we would support them, but we would rather talk to the person or people involved and find out why they acted the way they did. One of the most common forms of discrimination is teasing in the workplace. While the people who do the teasing might think it's harmless, if it happens regularly it can eventually really damage someone's self-esteem.

How do you propose to tackle the problem? In most cases discrimination is based on fear. People don't know where to look or what to say when they first meet someone with a disfigurement, and that makes them feel uncomfortable. I'll be running courses to train employers in how to interview someone with a disfigurement. Many such people would not describe themselves as disabled on their application form for a job. We want to make them aware that they have the same right as other disabled people.

Isn't this a problem that few employers will have? Not at all. It's very hard to get reliable figures for the numbers of disfigured people because of the discrepancies in the definition, but we estimate that there are at least 400,000 in the UK. A further 3,000 people are born every year with cleft lips and palates, cranio-facial conditions and birthmarks.

Employers who get it right on disfigurement often get it right on other differences too.

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