People with mental health problems may be missing out on employment rights and protections because of lack of awareness and a lack of clarity in how legislation is phrased, says Mind.
Almost half of people with mental health problems don’t know their conditions could legally be classed as a disability and that they could claim significant workplace rights, according to a survey by the charity Mind.
In an online survey of more than 1,700 people, Mind found that 44 per cent of respondents were unaware that a mental health problem could be classed as a disability. Mind says this means people are missing out on important workplace rights and protections to which they are entitled.
Ahead of the General Election, Mind is calling on the next government to ensure the legislation protecting disabled people at work is fit for purpose.
The Equality Act gives disabled employees the right to not be discriminated against in work, and a right to reasonable adjustments if they need them. But poor understanding of this leaves employees unable to challenge their workplace if and when they face discrimination on the grounds of a health condition.
A lack of clarity in the Act’s wording means many people confused are confused about whether they are entitled to the Act’s protections. At the moment, a mental health problem qualifies as a disability under the Act if it has:
When given the definition, however, one in three people in Mind’s survey either felt that their mental health problem did not fit the definition or weren’t sure if it did. In reality, many people with a mental health problem are covered by the Act but don’t realise it.
Many don’t know what “substantial adverse effect” meant, while others believe that because their mental health fluctuates from good to poor they don’t think they would meet the criteria.
Over half of people who didn’t think the definition of disabled applied to them cited the reason that their mental health problem hadn’t lasted or wasn’t expected to last 12 months.
This part of the definition means many people who experience fluctuating conditions don’t feel they can access the support, reasonable adjustments and protection they need – often meaning that they struggle to stay in work, says Mind.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, says: “There is a huge gap in awareness among those of us with mental health problems that we could be covered by the Equality Act 2010. Ahead of the general election, we’re calling on the incoming Government to make sure they address this issue.
“This next Government must commit to clarifying the definition of a disability under the Act to make sure staff with mental health problems have better access to rights and protections in work. This will help to protect them from discrimination in the first place, and to challenge their workplace if they are discriminated against on the grounds of a health condition, enable people to challenge this.
“While mental health problems can impact on your day-to-day life and work, it’s important to remember that – with the right support – those of us with mental health problems can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace.”