Mental health has hit the headlines with the UK Government pledging more money towards the health service following the release of a mental health taskforce report.
The report said, “Mental health has not had the priority awarded to physical health, has been short of qualified staff and has been deprived of funds. We must provide equal status to mental and physical health, equal status to mental health staff and equal funding for mental health services.”
It has been reported that, despite changing public opinion and increased awareness mental health has not been viewed as a priority in terms of funding.
The cost to society of having a poor mental health service is enormous. Poor mental health carries a social and economic cost of £105 billion a year in England.
NHS England’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health makes recommendations on how to improve mental health care in the UK. It emphasises that mental health disproportionately affects those who face discrimination, those who are unemployed and those who are living in poverty.
The report found that one in four people experience a mental health issue each year, of which as many as 75 per cent do not get any help. It’s clear that much needs to be done to improve the position.
As well as for the UK Government and the NHS, there are also lessons for employers in this mental health report. Employers need to put workplace inclusion at the forefront, make it a priority and make adjustments for their workforce. Raising awareness is the first step to removing the stigma surrounding mental health and creating a fairer workplace.
The next step is for employers to make sure they are removing the barriers faced by those they employ living with mental health conditions.
A failure by an employer to make a reasonable adjustment amounts to unlawful disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Adjustments might include offering flexibility in working hours or conditions, changing the way work is completed, or how tasks are explained. For example, for workers who struggle with concentration an employer might offer a tablet or laptop which can be used by the individual to type instructions and reminders, or even record instructions they can replay later.
The first step towards engaging your rights to benefit from reasonable adjustments in the workplace and to remove barriers you face at work is for you to disclose your condition to your employer. This can be a tough thing to do, but once your employer knows they can make a difference and they are obliged to make reasonable adjustments to remove disadvantage caused by disability, whether on a formal or informal basis.
You should not be treated unfairly at work because you have a mental health condition.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers provide a free disability discrimination case assessment by an expert solicitor.
Paula Chan is an employment associate at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London who specialises in discrimination and disability disputes.