Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
A legal loophole which allows firms to sack people suffering from conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis must be closed, a pressure group has urged.
People with progressive illnesses such as cancer, MS or HIV are only protected from discrimination when symptoms develop, not when they are diagnosed.
The Disability Rights Commission is also urging the government to protect people with hereditary conditions.
The commission said it had been powerless to deal with more than 2,000 cases where disabled people have been sacked or refused access to services because they were not protected by the law.
The report calls on the government to tighten-up legislation concerning disability rights.
The commission is campaigning on a range of issues, including making hate crimes against disabled people a criminal offence.
The report cites a number of examples where people have lost their jobs because of poor legal protection.
One man who had a predisposition to Huntington's disease but with no symptoms was sacked from his job because his employers feared that one day he might contract the disease.
In another case, a person with cancer spent over two years in the courts fighting to prove he is disabled so that he can take action against his former employers.
The commission wants people with progressive illnesses to be protected when their condition is diagnosed and people with a genetic predisposition to a progressive condition to be legally protected from discrimination.
Bert Massie, chairman of the DRC, said: "The government has signalled its willingness to introduce greater protection for disabled people but there is no timetable for action.
"Without tighter legislation, many disabled people will die before they
can secure their rights."
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