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21 May 2020

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace is becoming more and more common; whether it is the stresses and strains of the job itself, relationships with colleagues or personal matters that are affecting an employee’s wellbeing. 

In the second of our two articles, supporting Mental Health Awareness week with articles highlighting issues faced from a business perspective; we review the legal implications of mental health in the workplace.

If an employee has a mental health issue, it’s important the employer takes it seriously. The employer should spend time talking to the employee to find out what support they might need at work.  An issue can happen suddenly, because of a specific event in someone’s life, or it can build up gradually over time.

There are several types of mental health conditions, the most common employers are likely to face are as follows:

  • stress (this is not classed as a medical condition but it can still have a serious impact on wellbeing)
  • depression; and
  • anxiety

It is important for employers to be aware that a mental health issue could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010.  The Act states that a person may have a disability if all of the following apply:

  • It has a substantial adverse effect on the life of the employee;
  • It lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to do so;
  • It affects their ability to do their normal day to day activities.

An employer may need to take further steps should an employee have a disability to ensure that they do not discriminate against them because of their disability and it must consider making reasonable adjustments for the employee.  If an employer is unsure whether the employee’s condition amounts to a disability it should always err on the side of caution and seek professional advice from either the employee’s GP or Occupational Health.

If an employee does have a disability and the employer fails to take reasonable steps to protect the employee from unfair treatment then they could be faced with an Employment Tribunal claim for discrimination against that employee.

There are a number of steps that can be taken by the employer to help protect its employees from any unfair treatment and support them through their condition.  These include:

  • making sure the working environment is safe
  • carrying out risk assessments
  • protecting staff from discrimination
  • creating a supportive environment
  • arranging for training for managers and/or employees on undertaking mental health in the work place

We are here to help, to continue reading our articles on Mental Health in the workplace please use the links below and join in the conversation online using #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and #Kindnessmatters:

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Mental Health in the Workplace – National work life week 2019

Good mental health boosts performance

For further advice on practical tips or on the law surrounding discrimination, or if you would like to discuss updates, advice and best practice for Mental Health in the workplace please contact our employment team on employment@steeleslaw.co.uk or by calling 01603 598000.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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