Reasonable Mental Health Adjustments at Work

Reasonable Mental Health Adjustments at Work
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With as many as one in four people experiencing mental health problems in their life, it’s vital that employers know how to make fair mental health adjustments to support their staff.

Spotting mental health issues at work can be difficult. Arguably even more so is assuring you are providing the right support for these employees. That’s why it’s important to identify the needs of each individual employee and create mental health adjustments accordingly.

Choosing the correct adjustment is vital as doing so ensures targeted support for each employee. However, research suggests that many organisations are struggling.

While 77% of employees believe that their organisation promotes good mental well-being, the same employees are much less confident in the ability of their organisation to support and assist with their mental health.

In response, ACAS has published new non-statutory guidance on reasonable adjustments for mental health at work in conjunction with Affinity Health at Work.

This article will summarise what mental health adjustments the tribunal deems appropriate, detailing who is eligible, how to ask an employer for amendments and the benefits adjustments will make on a business.

The Law on Mental Health Adjustments at Work

Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 sets out an employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not disadvantaged. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment. Mental impairment is not defined but is intended to cover a wide range of conditions relating to mental functioning. Examples of mental impairment are:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis

It’s important to note that these conditions will only be deemed as a disability if they have a substantial long term negative effect on the employee’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. This can include, sleep, interpersonal relationships, emotional regulation and eating.

An employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to any employee who has a disability. This is to ensure they continue to work or return to work. When deciding whether adjustments are reasonable, employers will need to consider factors for example cost, practicality, and effectiveness of the adjustment.

Who is Eligible for Mental Health Adjustments?

A person is eligible for reasonable adjustments if they have a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial long-term effect on their normal day-to-day activities. This includes but is not limited to people with mental illness such as depression, anxiety or PTSD.

What Mental Health Adjustments the Tribunal Deems Appropriate

Areas that Mental Health Adjustments Cover:

Reasonable adjustments are specific to an individual. Mental health adjustments can cover:

  • Any areas of work.
  • Changes to someone’s physical working environment.
  • Changes to someone’s working arrangements.
  • Finding a different way for the individual to carry out a task.
  • Adapting policies to better suit an individual.
  • Providing equipment, services, or support.

Adjustments will look different for every individual as they must tailor to their specific needs.

However, the following lists provide ways in which ACAS recommends a business can make mental health adjustments.

Changing an Employees Role and Responsibilities

 To help better cater a role to help with an employee’s mental health an employer may look to change someone’s role and responsibilities. This can include:

  • Review and adjust an individual’s tasks and deadlines, making it a more reasonable workload while they are managing their mental health.
  • Breaking down tasks into short-term tasks to reduce the complexity of someone’s work and provide structuring of the day.
  • Reviewing and reducing responsibilities to remove those that are stressful.
  • Moving someone into a different department or role if their current role has a negative impact on their mental health.

Research according to CIPD shows that workload is the most common cause of work-related stress. Helping an employee manage their workload is therefore seen a very effective and reasonable adjustment for mental health.

Reviewing Working Relationships and Communication Styles

In addition, ACAS recommend reviewing working relationships and communication styles. This can include, assuring someone is working with trusted people.  As a result, this will limit the impact of different working and communication styles. Additionally, by agreeing a preferred communication method, an employer can reduce an employee’s anxiety. For example, agreeing on stopping spontaneous phone calls.

Changing the Physical Working Environment

Changing the physical working environment can also provide a reasonable mental health adjustment. This can be carried out by:

  • Allowing an employee to work from home to manage distractions or engage in activities that allow them to manage their mental health. For example, an employee can might need to take regular breaks without feeling others are observing them.
  • Relocating an employee’s workspace to a quieter area to help them manage sensory demands.
  • Providing rest areas away from busier social spaces, so the employee can rest without needing to engage with other employees.
  • Providing reserved parking spaces, so the employee can park without commuting stresses.

Research shows that 97% of employees felt having a more flexible job would have a positive impact on their quality of life. In addition, 61% of employees would prefer the option to work from home more often. This is because working remotely can reduce a lot of stress, by removing daily stressors such as commuting or spending time away from family members.

Make Policy Changes

Employers may also look to make policy changes. For example:

  • Offering paid time off for an employee so they can attend appointments in work time.
  • Being flexible with trigger points for absences. Therefore, someone is not put at a disadvantage by taking absence if they are unwell.
  • Offer an employee extended phased return to support someone to build up hours gradually and continue their recovery.

Offer Additional Support

Finally, an employee may wish to offer additional support in the form of modifying supervision to provide regular check-ins and to help the employee structure their workday. Additionally, employers may look to provide training or coaching to build confidence in skills relevant to the employee’s role. Lastly, it may be beneficial to offer your employee a work buddy or mentor to be a dedicated person to support with work tasks.

The Benefits of Reasonable Mental Health Adjustments for Businesses

Everybody deserves a fair opportunity to flourish in a work environment, regardless of their physical or mental health. For this reason, the Equality Act 2010, makes it a legal obligation for an employer to make reasonable adjustments to support their employees.

Research by Deloitte found that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion every year. By ensuring you are taking the right steps to protect your employees, not only will you help to reduce these costs, but you will cultivate a happier, more productive workforce.

When Can an Employer Remove Reasonable Adjustments?

Reasonable adjustments can be put into place temporarily or on a permanent basis. It’s important that an employer discusses the details of the adjustments needed to know what would be best suited.

If an employer removes these adjustments before an employer is ready, it may be viewed as discriminatory behaviour and the employee may be eligible to make a claim.

How to Ask Your Employer for Mental Health Adjustments

Before asking your employer for mental health adjustments, you may wish to:

  • Write down bullet points to ensure you have covered everything you wish to say.
  • Think carefully about what you want to disclose about your mental health.
  • Read any policies your employers have relating to mental health, absence and reasonable adjustments.
  • Think about what adjustments might be useful. It’s okay if you are not sure what can be done to help. ACAS has provided a series of questions you can answer before a meeting with your management that can help to prepare you for your meeting.

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Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.