Does my employer have to reduce my hours if I have depression?

I returned to work after receiving treatment for a cancerous brain tumour. Although I am physically fit for work I have found the emotional side of my illness hard to deal with and am being treated for depression. I asked my employer if I could reduce my hours to four days a week. They said they could not accommodate me at my current workplace, but could at another site in the same group. That site is further for me to travel to and as I am currently unable to drive, would take me twice as long. Is there anything I can do?

Mental Health


I understand that you have returned to work after receiving treatment for a cancerous brain tumour and are now being treated for depression.  You have asked your employer to reduce your hours and although this has been agreed, it has been said that this could only be accommodated at a different location.  As you are currently unable to drive, this would mean doubling your commuting time.

Under the Equality Act 2010, which defines a disability as being a physical or mental condition which has a long-term and substantial effect on a person’s ability to carry out day to day activities (cancer is always classed as a disability, depression may also be a disability), the duty to make reasonable adjustments arises where a provision, criterion or practice applied by the employer puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled. Here, the employer must take such steps as it is reasonable to take to avoid the disadvantage.

The EHRC Code states that altering a disabled person’s duties, perhaps by transferring some of them to another employee, might be a reasonable adjustment. As might altering their working hours or place of work.

It appears that your employer has agreed that there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments for you by reducing your working hours to four days per week.  However, it has been stated that this can only be accommodated at another location.  If this is not acceptable to you, we would recommend arranging a meeting with your manager or HR to explain why this would not be suitable to you, ask your employer to apply the adjusted hours to your current workplace and perhaps set out how you foresee the adjustment working in your current workplace.  If your employer refuses this request, we would advise requesting written reasons for this, at which point you should take further advice on your options.

It may be that, if your employer refuses to accommodate this request for reduced hours, you have a potential claim against your employer for a failure to make reasonable adjustments and/or discrimination on the grounds of disability.  However, we would advise that you attempt to try and resolve this with your employer amicably and seeking legal advice before taking matters further.

*Lucy Flynn assisted on this answer.

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