The law and mental health in the workplace

By 11th May 2021 Disputes No Comments

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from Monday 10th of May to Sunday the 16th of May 2021 in the UK, and it aims to raise awareness and educate people about mental health issues and the impact on everyday life.

This year, specifically, has been very hard for all of us: we all went through a pandemic, lockdowns, being furloughed and missing precious time with our families. Working from home or working from the office with never seen before measures also impacted people’s mental health.

Now that things are going back to normal, even though awareness of mental health issues has risen, employers need to make sure all employees are treated fairly at work.

Here is some important information about the law and mental health in the workplace:

What is a mental illness in the eyes of the law?

According to the law, a disability is any long-term physical or mental impairment that has a substantial effect on your ability to carry out day-to-day activities. For example, people with anxiety can find rush hour travel to work insufferable or cannot work in a noisy work environment.

Are you legally obliged to disclose a mental illness to an employer?

No, as an employee, you are not legally obliged to mention anything- disclosure of mental health issues at work is a personal choice.

We understand that this is a personal and sensitive matter, but there can be benefits to letting your employers know. If you decide you’d like your employers to know about your mental health status, you can decide how much information to give.  It can be helpful to have a note from your doctor that explains how your mental health might affect you and what adjustments will help you at work.

What might be workplace discrimination?

Any disadvantage you suffer at work because of a mental health condition can be workplace discrimination.  For example, if your employer terminates you because of the amount of sick leave you have taken due to your mental health or if your work has placed policies that only apply to people who have not taken sick leave.

What legal rights and protections are in place for those with a mental health condition?

There are many legal protections in place under the Equality Act 2010. You are protected by the law and must never be put at a disadvantage in the workplace because of your condition.

Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments under the law and failure to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments can result in disciplinary action.

 

If you feel you have been treated differently because of your mental health condition, you may be entitled to bring a claim for direct or indirect disability discrimination. Each situation is different so please get in touch for an initial free discussion and our team will be able to give you the right advice based on your circumstances.