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Short-term mental health issues and discrimination

Now, none of this is set in stone yet, as of course we’re still due our general election on 8th June. But when the party currently storming the polls makes a big announcement, ignoring it would be akin to burying one’s head in the sand – not a recommended course of action when it comes to managing your people!

In this blog post we’re looking at the proposed changes to mental health laws. They would extend protection from discrimination at work to more people.

Employment protections eligibility would be extended

At this moment in time, to qualify for employment protections on the grounds of mental health, one must have carried a condition for a period greater than 12 months. This effectively cancels protection for those with short-term mental health issues.

All that could change though. If Theresa May unpacks her bags in Number 10, individuals with mental health issues would gain immediate protection under the Equality Act 2010. This would be regardless of how long they’ve had the condition.

So, the question is, is this a good or bad thing? Well, in the first instance, it’s a big boost to those campaigning for mental health to become more recognised at work. To those, and to those suffering mental health issues, it’s welcome news.

The impact on businesses

And what about for business? Mental health issues range from stress, anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD and more. The sheer prevalence of mental health issues is a huge concern here. One in four of us experience a mental health problem each year. Stress alone is one of the UK’s leading causes of absence – and that doesn’t look like it’s set to change any time soon.

By extending the protections outlined in the Equality Act (2010) to those with short term mental health issues, it opens more businesses up to discrimination claims.

The new proposal has one advantage of taking away the uncertainty as to whether or not someone is protected from discrimination. So, the one thing to take away from this blog, is to watch the general election very carefully. Think about the effect the result could have on your business.

We’ve filtered through the political mumbo jumbo for you here – we hope you find it useful! As ever, The HR Dept is on hand to assist you with all employment issues. If you need help, get in touch.

  • Ian

    I agree, particularly when considering the requirements under the Act to consider what “reasonable adjustments” may be needed in respect of mental health illness. It can be easier to think of an adjustment for a person with a physical injury or disability but perhaps more challenging when considering poor mental health. A change in mindset is often required and this is going to become even more prevalent in the light of these proposals.