Mental Health in the Workplace – Understanding the Law

Mental ill health is experienced by 1 in 4 of us at some point in our lives according to the Government’s Department of Health.  If you are affected it is important to understand your rights and the legal obligations of your employer where your mental health is concerned.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental ill health can present itself in a variety of forms such as stress, anxiety and depression.  It can fluctuate at any time with several causes involving personal circumstances, for instance illness or family bereavement, but many causes may be found or exacerbated in the workplace.

Common Mental Health Issues in the Workplace:

  • An inability to cope with heavy workload or demands
  • Being bullied or harassed by your employer or a colleague
  • Facing a disciplinary meeting
  • Not receiving enough training or support to do your job properly
  • Facing Redundancy

Sometimes, if an individual has a mental health condition, their employer can treat them badly because of it.  If the individual’s mental illness is classified as a disability by the Equality Act 2010, and if they are treated badly in the workplace because of their mental illness, their employer may be discriminating against the individual.

When is Mental Ill Health classed as a Disability?

If you feel that you are suffering at work because you have a mental illness then you should seek professional advice to determine whether your mental illness would fall under the definition of disability under the legislation, and whether you can receive support to ensure that you are treated better.  There is a fine line between what would and wouldn’t qualify.  For example, you may feel stressed as a reaction to difficulties at work, but stress isn’t classed as an illness in itself, although it may lead to depression which is. 

Mental health problems that may be covered under the Equality Act include depression, schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.  You do not however need to have a particular named mental health condition in order to get protection from the legislation provided that you can show:

  1. You have a mental impairment;
  2. It is long term (likely to last more than 12 months);
  3. It has a substantial adverse effect on your day-to-day activities.

If you consider that your mental illness falls under the above categories, you are likely to be considered disabled according to the legislation.

Making reasonable adjustments for mental health in the workplace

If you are considered disabled under the Equality Act then your employer must provide reasonable adjustments to your working practices to help you continue your job role the same as a non-disabled employee and these should be regularly reviewed.  Your employer’s duty is to consider making reasonable adjustments, taking into account their size, resources etc.  Your employer may be able to get financial help with making reasonable adjustments from the Government’s Access to Work scheme which can help fund special equipment or even travel to and from work.

Examples of reasonable adjustments you could ask for are:

  • Changes to your working area
  • Flexible working hours
  • Working from home
  • Changes in role e.g. fewer responsibilities as a temporary measure
  • Separating you from any colleagues who are bullying or harassing you
  • Extra training and support
  • Taking some time off for treatment, assessment or rehabilitation

If your employer fails to implement reasonable changes it will amount to Disability Discrimination under the Equality Act.  

How we can help

If you are considered as disabled, the law can cover you during all stages of the employment lifecycle, including recruitment, while employed and if you are being dismissed for any reason but you believe that it is relating to your disability, including redundancy.

If you believe you are suffering from a mental health condition and are either being discriminated against at work or would like to approach your employer to discuss the issue, our expert employment law solicitors are here to help.   We provide a free 30-minute initial consultation to help you understand your rights and will help you achieve the outcome you deserve. 

Contact us today to find out more:

Call:       01245 893400
Email:    [email protected]
Visit:      71 Duke Street, Chelmsford Essex CM1 1JU
or alternatively fill in our form on our Contact Us page