Know your mental health rights

Too many people – both those in work, and out of work – aren’t getting the support they need from Government or their employers for their mental health.

That has to change. We need to work harder as a country to create a society in which everyone’s mental health can flourish and where everyone has financial security.

What laws protect people at work?

Under the Equality Act 2010, disabled people and their carers are protected from discrimination. There are 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, including 19% of all working age adults. It is vital for all disabled workers to know their rights at work, and to know what to do if they are mistreated or discriminated against.

It also states that your employer is legally required to provide reasonable adjustments to disabled workers to ensure that they are still able to do their jobs. Examples of this are a raised desk, accessible entrances or flexible hours to attend medical appointments.

It is important to note that not all illegal workplace behaviour against disabled people will fall neatly into these categories, and they may overlap. It is also important to remember that you may be discriminated against for being member of more than one protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, such as being disabled and pregnant.

Does this cover mental health?

The word “disability” has a broad meaning under the Equality Act. You are classed as having a disability if you have a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”. Most mental illnesses can be thought of as an impairment based on the effects it has on you.

What constitutes discrimination?

The four main types of illegal discrimination against disabled workers are direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and failure to provide reasonable adjustments.

Direct discrimination is when you are treated less favourably due to disability, such as being passed over for promotions or opportunities, or not hired for a certain position.Indirect discrimination is when your employer has rules or arrangements in place that put you at a disadvantage as a disabled person, whether intentional or otherwise. An example is requiring employees have a driving license, which may exclude people with epilepsy. Policies such as this are unlawful, unless there is an objective justification for them existing. Failure to provide reasonable adjustments is when, as the name suggests, your employer makes no effort to provide reasonable adjustments to disabled workers. Harassment is when you are bullied or mistreated for being disabled, such as name-calling or social exclusion.

How do I seek support?

Today we represent thousands of workers across the U.K. with mental health conditions in all industries and sectors and we are committed to driving positive change, rights, recognition and support for our members.

At Community, we believe it’s essential that everyone is given the support they need to do their job to the best of their ability. Although this exists as a legal right, many people with mental health conditions struggle to get the support they need. Read our guide on how to access reasonable adjustments.

If you are a member of Community and need advice or support, please contact our Service Centre at or on 0800 389 6332.

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