Mental health awareness week
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Mental Health Awareness Week
May 10, 2022

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.