Employees are protected from discrimination in the workplace due to mental (or physical) illness. As part of this protection, employers are obliged to make adjustments to a person’s job or working environment to reduce the impact of a person’s health condition on their ability to work, and to ensure they are getting the right support. Often, simple workplace adjustments can allow people with mental health conditions to continue living healthy and productive lives. (‘Reasonable’ means an adjustment that is effective for the employee without being too disruptive, costly or impractical for the employer to provide.)
Making workplace adjustments to allow a person experiencing mental health problems to stay in work is important for a number of reasons:
1. The Equality Act 2010 states that employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities in order to ensure that they have the same access to everything that involves gaining or keeping employment as a non-disabled person. (Whilst many people with mental health conditions might not consider themselves to be disabled, their condition might be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if it has a serious impact on their day-to-day life over a long period.)
2. From a business perspective, proactive management of employees’ mental and physical health can produce a range of benefits, including:
- reduction of sickness absence;
- greater staff engagement and productivity;
- reduced staff turnover;
- recruitment and costs.
Some examples of ‘reasonable adjustments’ include:
- taking a flexible approach to start/finish times and/or shift patterns;
- allowing the use of paid or unpaid leave for medical appointments;
- providing a quiet space for breaks away from the main workspace;
- offering a reserved parking space;
- increasing the frequency of supervision;
- supporting someone to prioritise their work;
- providing a job coach.
For more information on workplace adjustments for a person experiencing mental illness, see Rethink Mental Illness’s guide to the rights of a person experiencing mental illness at work. Alternatively, you can use the Fit for Work resources to find out more about supporting people in work with health conditions and helping with sickness absence.