Mental health issues at work have reportedly increased during the pandemic, and, like covid-19 itself, has shown an unfortunate level of resilience.
Whether working from home or in a covid secure office, whatever your position or status in an organisation, mental illness can affect anyone and at any time.
Mental health illness can be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Individuals who suffer from mental health illness may, therefore, benefit from the protections that the 2010 Act offers against discrimination.
Should you be experiencing with difficulties in the workplace, linked to mental health illness, there are some steps to follow before considering the possibility of bringing a claim for disability discrimination against your employer.
Speak to your employer
The first port of call for an employee should be to speak to their employer about the difficulties that they are having with their mental health. Employers should be better equipped today than they have ever been to react properly in the event that one of its employees raises concerns about their mental health. Talking about the issues and, more importantly, identifying potential solutions to these issues, is the best and quickest way to a solution that works best for both sides. Human resources departments are an obvious place to turn to for support, but approaching your line manager or a senior colleague is also recommended.
What support can be offered will depend on the circumstances of your role and the nature of the business. What should be offered depends on what is reasonable in the circumstances. Ways forward may include a referral for an occupational health assessment in order to determine whether any changes can be made to your role or the working environment to assist.
Raise a grievance
Employers do not always get it right, and in such a situation, an employee can escalate the issue by raising a formal grievance. This can be done in a number of ways, and much will depend on company policy, but a written grievance is recommended. Whichever method is used, the issues, and proposed solution, should be set out clearly.
Grievances should be investigated by an employer. How the grievance is investigated will depend on the circumstances and the resources of the employer. Some investigations into grievances can lead to a formal hearing being scheduled.
Considering issuing a claim in the Employment Tribunal
Employers can (and do) get it wrong, in which case there may be no other option after having formally raised the difficulties that you are facing, but to pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal for disability discrimination should your employer have continued to fail to meet their duty to make reasonable adjustments to your work, duties, role or working environment.
The types of claims that may be available depend entirely on the individual circumstances of a case. A failure to put in place proper support measures may give rise to a claim for a failure to make reasonable adjustments. Negative comments about an employee’s mental health may give rise to a claim for harassment. A dismissal, because of or directly linked to difficulties an employee may have had with their mental health, may give rise to a claim for direct disability discrimination or discrimination arising from disability.
Bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal for disability discrimination is not a straightforward process. There are also are strict time limits in which disability discrimination claims must be started in the Employment Tribunal. Such claims must be started through the early conciliation process within 3 months less one day of the alleged act of discrimination having taken place.
If you feel that you may have been subjected to disability discrimination and need further advice or assistance, please contact our specialist solicitors in the discrimination law department on 0161 696 6170.