Mental health discrimination at work

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Health Assured team

23 May 2019

Anyone who receives worse treatment at work because of a mental health condition is a victim of discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 gives you certain protections and rights, related to mental health discrimination in the workplace. For example, if you are treated differently when applying for a job, during your time at work, or are made redundant due to mental health issues, this law is designed to protect you.

In order to be protected by the Act, you need to show that the discrimination was based on mental illness and that your mental illness is a disability. Remember, a condition is regarded as a disability if it causes ‘an impairment that is either physical or mental and the impairment has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on your normal daily activities.’

Any treatment that disregards your disability is mental health discrimination.


I’ve been discriminated against—what are my options?

Luckily, mental health and discrimination in employment are hot topics, with plenty of help available. It’s a good idea to explore the options available to you before making any kind of decision. If you feel you’ve been discriminated against, here are a few avenues to try:

  • Resolve the issue informally: this is often a good course of action. Sometimes, discrimination is genuinely not intended—a comment may have been made out of context, or your disability overlooked without malice. Talk to your colleagues or manager, if you feel confident enough to do so. This is often enough to highlight and deal with an issue, with an apology and a commitment to be mindful in future.
  • Formal grievance: if informal discussions don’t work, or the issue is more serious, raising a formal grievance is a recommended step. Write down everything that has happened, get evidence about your disability from your GP, ask for a response in writing, and seek advice from a trade union rep. This is a serious step—talk with people around you, and make sure you have emotional support.
  • Early conciliation: If the problem can’t be sorted directly, outside assistance is available. Acas provides a free conciliation service designed to solve problems before they go to court. It’s easier, cheaper and less stressful than a court hearing—especially as mental illness discrimination can be painfully stressful to deal with.
  • Employment Tribunal: something of a weapon of last resort, this involves court proceedings and is very stressful. You need to start a claim with the Employment Tribunal within 3 months of the discrimination you experience.


What about specific mental health legislation?

There is a piece of relevant legislation—the Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013. But this is only to do with a few very specific scenarios: it repealed the practice of barring those with mental health issues from serving on juries, or as company directors. And people institutionalised for six months or more are no longer forced to stand down if serving as members of Parliament.

It’s a great step toward a society with a better view of discrimination and mental health. But for most people who have been discriminated against in the workplace, the Equality Act 2010 is the legislation that they’ll find most useful.


Expert Advice

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Heath Assured on 0808 109 8404.

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