As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Karen Holden from A City Law Firm outlines the law as regards employees with mental health problems and what employers can do to boost mental well being.
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being and includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Employers should be fully aware and up to date in respect of their responsibilities relating to the mental health of their employees. This is particularly prevalent as one of the biggest issues a business may face is a claim for discrimination.
The laws on mental health discrimination are set out in the Equality Act 2010 which stipulates that employees are protected from being treated unfairly or discriminated against based on a physical or mental impairment that has a “substantial” and “long-term” negative effect on their ability to carry our normal daily activities.
An employee’s mental and physical well-being should be treated in the same way when it comes to days off; in the UK there is no legal difference between taking a day off, whether it is to look after your mental or physical health. Whilst it seems encouraging that mental and physical health are treated in the same way and are expected to be as vital as the other, employees are still wary of taking mental health days due to fear of judgement or assumptions.
However, more and more companies, especially large companies such as Tesco and Marks and Spencer, are pledging to commit to tackling the stigma around mental health, known as “Time to Change”.
There are various ways in which employers are tackling the stigma and the following steps can be taken to prevent or reduce mental health discrimination in the workplace:
This equality should be demonstrated to all staff, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, gender
identity or perceived sexual orientation. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect.
*Karen Holden is the Founder of A City Law Firm.