Mental Health Awareness week in the UK runs from 9 to 15 May. It is an annual event focusing on an opportunity to achieve good mental health and is a time to raise awareness for those working and living with mental health issues.

It is thought that mental ill health will affect one in four people at some point during their working lives. Employees with mental health problems often suffer discrimination.  Unemployment affects those with long-term mental health disorders more than other groups of disabled people.

Read on to know and understand the rights of employees living and working with mental health issues.

What is Mental Health Discrimination in the Workplace?

Mental health discrimination at work is when someone who has a mental health condition that amounts to a disability, is treated less favourably than other employees, or is disadvantaged, because they suffer from that mental health condition. 

What Qualifies as a Disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is disabled if:

  • They have a mental or physical impairment, and
  • The impairment has a considerable, long-term detrimental effect on their ability to perform everyday tasks

Or,

  • They have an impairment which automatically qualifies as a disability, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV, a visual impairment or severe disfigurement.

What is the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act 2010 offers individuals protection against discrimination while giving employers and businesses greater clarity about their responsibilities. It sets an

expectation that public services have to treat everyone with the dignity and respect that is deserved.

What is a Mental Impairment?

‘Disability’ or ‘mental impairment’ has a certain legal meaning under the Equality Act, which is broader than may first be thought. Even if you don’t think you have a disability, the Equality Act may protect you from discrimination if you have a mental impairment which falls within the definition of disability.

What is Classed as Mental Health Discrimination?

If an individual can demonstrate that their condition amounts to a disability, and they are treated unfairly because of that condition, or because of something that arises from it, or are harassed because of that condition, they may have a claim for disability discrimination.

Direct discrimination is when you are treated less favourably than someone else because you have a disability. You need to show that there is a link between your disability and the way you have been treated. 

Can my Employer Sack me for Mental Health Issues?

In the UK, all employees with two years’ continuous service or more have the right not to be unfairly dismissed. This means that if the employer wishes to terminate the employment of an employee, they must be able to prove a fair reason for dismissal. The employee’s inability to do their job for mental health reasons on grounds of capability can be a fair reason to dismiss. However, the employer must follow a full and fair procedure, giving the employee an opportunity to address any issues with sufficient time to recover.

Where the employee’s mental health issues amount to a disability — where there’s a psychological impairment that has a long-term adverse effect on their ability to do normal daily tasks — the employer must look at any reasonable adjustments that can be made to reduce any disadvantage arising from the employee’s disability.  If no reasonable adjustments have been made, it is more likely that a dismissal will be unfair (as well as potentially discriminatory).

Employees are entitled to work in an environment where risks to their health, safety and welfare, including their mental and emotional wellbeing, are appropriately managed. If an employee’s mental health issues have been either caused or aggravated by work-related stress,again, they may have claims against the employer.

What are Some Common Mental Health Issues?

There are many types of mental health disorder: common mental health issues include symptoms of depression and anxiety. Less common issues include conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar and schizophrenia. 

What you Should do if you Think you Have Been Discriminated Against

If you think you may have been treated unfairly, in the first instance, you should complain directly to the person or organisation involved, by raising a grievance for instance. If you feel you need support, you could ask someone else to help mediate and sort it out. If things can’t be resolved informally, try talking to Acas, Citizens Advice or a trade union representative. 

Alternatively, you could talk to a law firm that specialises in employment discrimination. Discrimination based on mental health is a serious matter and specialised law firms are well versed to helping individuals subjected to discrimination against mental health in the workplace.

How to Get Help if you Feel you Have Been Discriminated Against

If you want to challenge an employment decision, employment lawyers can help. They have a unique understanding of employment and discrimination issues, so they can provide you with the advice you need.

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