Month: May 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health awareness week

This week marks Mental Health Awareness week. With an awareness of mental health rapidly increasing in the workplace, it is important for employers to understand their legal duties in relation to the mental health of their employees and workers.

How is Mental Health legally defined?

Mental health does not have a legal definition but ACAS defines it as “our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing; it affects how we think, feel and act and how we cope with the normal pressures of everyday life”

A mental health impairment could command the legal status of a disability the Equality Act 2010 (EQA 2010) if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. 

This definition is broad and can cover a wide range of impairments relating to mental functioning including clinical depression as well as neurodiverse conditions such as bipolar disorder, autism and ADHD.

What are the legal protections at work under the EQA?

Employees and workers with a mental health condition which meets the legal definition of disability are protected from discrimination (in other words less favourable treatment) in the workplace and employers are under a positive duty to make “reasonable adjustments” for them in certain circumstances. This could include adjustments to their workload, hours of work, or working environment.

It is important for employees and workers to understand their legal rights in relation to mental health so that they can receive appropriate support from their employer in managing a disability in the workplace.

It is equally important for employers to understand what constitutes a mental health disability and what support they may be required by law to provide for an employee or worker who has a diagnosed mental health impairment or neurodiverse condition.

Are other legal protections available for mental health?

Employers are under a general legal duty to look after the health and safety of all of their employees and this includes their mental health. Exposing an employee to excessive workload or stress can cause injury to mental health for which an employer could be held legally liable.

While many employees often focus on the psychical health and safety of their staff, mental health can be neglected at significant cost to both the employer and the employee.

For more information on mental health and how it affects employers and employees, stay tuned to our page. We will be posting some helpful information and resources this week for employers and employees who want to learn about how mental health affects the workplace.

My experience at Burley Law

My experience at Burley Law

In March I reached the six months mark here at Burley Law and this blog will reflect on my experience working as a paralegal, with no prior legal work experience and straight out of university.  Whilst a law degree teaches you the fundamentals of contracts, land law and crime etc, the experience you gain working within a business makes you realise how much you didn’t know.  If you’re looking to start your legal career or contemplating about whether a law degree is for you, hopefully this blog will help in some way. 

At 17 when I applied for my law degree, I was under the impression that it would be pretty straightforward: do three years at university, get my degree, and get a job in a law firm.  However, a substantial thing I forgot about was my naivety, and this is a common thing amongst undergraduates and even postgraduates like myself. 

So, how do you make your vision of working in the legal industry a reality?  There are many routes you could take but here’s what I did… 

I started working at Burley Law as an intern, a couple months after finishing university and jumped at the opportunity to get some actual legal work experience.  I had done pro bono work, worked as a Retail Assistant and even did online work experience throughout COVID. Although these opportunities only helped build on my soft skills like teamwork and communication, I’d recommend that you showcase these when applying for jobs if you have minimal to no legal work experience as they are really important in helping get your foot in the door.  

My internship lasted a month and I learnt so much in that time like how to respond to clients, what intellectual property a business should protect and how to draft an NDA, amongst other things.  One essential skill that quickly strengthened was my commercial awareness.  Whilst Googling how to become commercially aware is a good start, I found I only really started to develop this when working within a commercial environment.  Being constantly aware of what is happening in the commercial world and how this affects the legal industry, increases your commercial awareness.  This is definitely a skill that builds over time, and you shouldn’t worry if you don’t feel confident with this because it will come naturally when you start working. 

I have also found that my legal knowledge has expanded, when I started I had only touched upon IP throughout my degree and was anxious that I would be completely useless at work.  And yes, imposter syndrome was a very real feeling for me when I started – and  sometimes even now – but that’s natural when you start an entry level role and it does fade away over time!  Had you asked me 7 months ago to draft a specification for a trade mark or review an NDA, I would have panicked and not known what to do.  But ask me today and I can do it, with (some) confidence too.  Getting a job is a learning process and I have definitely learnt so much about IP and employment law, it does take a couple of months to become familiar with things but once you’ve worked for six months you will be amazed at how far you’ve come. It helps to keep a journal of what you are working on day by day so you can look back on everything you’ve done.

When I started at Burley Law I wasn’t sure what working in a law firm would be like.  My expectations were based on watching Suits and the only thing I had, unlike Mike Ross, was my law degree.  It’s fair to say no two days are the same here, I could be working on an introducer agreement one day and organising meetings the next.  At Burley Law we all get involved in every aspect of the business, and you work on so much more than just legal work – getting stuck in is what we do!  I have thoroughly enjoy working at Burley Law, my colleagues are amazing, the work is interesting and most importantly I look forward to coming into work. 

If you’re starting out in the legal world or choosing if Law is what you’d like to study, I would definitely go in with an open mind.  Law firms aren’t the same everywhere, and your experience at one might be completely different to working at another.  You should definitely research the firm, their work culture and values, what your role will consist of and career development opportunities.  Starting your first professional job is always daunting and it’s okay to feel anxious at first – the nerves and apprehension will begin to fade after your first week.  Just remember to have faith in yourself, trust the process and give yourself time to settle in, you will soon be in my shoes and looking back at how far you’ve come. 

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