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Managing Mental Health in The Workplace

By Principal Lawyer, Employment

The top three causes of work-related mental health problems are tight deadlines, too much responsibility and lack of managerial support, according to research carried out by the Health and Safety Executive.

Two thirds of people in work have experienced a mental health problem, with one in six workers experiencing depression, anxiety or unmanageable stress at any one time. However, the percentage of employees who choose to disclose it to their employers has remained the same, at 43 per cent, for the past five years.

Clearly, the prospect of raising a mental health condition with your employer can be a daunting one.  However, the reality is if they don’t know about your condition they cannot take steps to help you.

Employers have a common duty of care to look after the good mental health of their staff, just as they would with a physical illness, and make reasonable workplace adjustments if your condition is a disability. Here we explain the steps you can take and what this really means.

Talk to Someone You Trust

Confiding in a close friend, family member or your doctor is the first step to tackling mental health problems for many. If how you feel is affecting your ability to do your job, getting a diagnosis from a GP can be an important step and help you broach the subject with your employer and get the support you need.  

Should I Tell My Employer About my Mental Health Condition?

Employers must provide their employees with a safe system of work to help prevent staff from getting ill, whether that means your physical or mental health.  

If you do not disclose a mental health condition to your employer and if your employer does not know or realise you are struggling, they won’t be able to help you.  It is your personal choice whether or not you disclose mental health issues and how much you choose to say but if you are forthcoming with your employer about a medical condition then they should use this knowledge to better support you in your work.

If you are scared by the prospect of disclosing a mental health illness to your employer you can request a confidential discussion with your relevant line-manager or HR officer. You should not suffer unfair treatment as a result of your mental health condition if it is a disability – in fact, if your disability puts you at a substantial disadvantage compared to others your employer may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

What Are Reasonable Adjustments?

Reasonable adjustments are making changes to the workplace or ways in which work is carried out so as to remove barriers to work for employees with disabilities; this includes non-physical disabilities such as mental health conditions which impact your ability to carry out your work.

Examples of workplace adjustments for employees with mental health conditions could include offering flexible working or changing their workspace, but every case is different and requires a common sense approach.

Anything that costs less than it would to hire or train a new employee in the role could be considered reasonable and the adjustments are quite often simple.

If you are suffering from stress at work, or a work related mental illness, and want legal advice on your next move you can speak with the Slater and Gordon stress at work lawyers. Call us on freephone 0800 049 2545 or contact us online.

Ivor Adair is an employment lawyer with expertise in stress at work claims. He works at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

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