Earlier this month, ACAS launched new guidance in respect of reasonable adjustments for mental health at work.
The guidance highlights the importance for employers to take employee mental health conditions as seriously, and with the same level of care as a physical illness.
The guidance covers:
- What reasonable adjustments for mental health are;
- Examples of reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- Requesting reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- Responding to reasonable adjustments for mental health requests; and
- Managing employees with reasonable adjustments for mental health.
An employer is required by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace for employees who are considered disabled. An employee will be considered disabled if they have a mental (or physical) impairment which has a substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities, and the impairment lasts or is likely to last at least 12 months.
Reasonable adjustments are changes an employer makes to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to someone’s disability. Whilst the guidance itself is not legally binding, and each individual employee’s requirements as to reasonable adjustments will be dependent upon the nature of their disability and symptoms, it does provide some helpful examples of the types of adjustments that a Tribunal might expect an employer to consider, including:-
- agreeing a preferred communication method to help reduce anxiety – for example by avoiding spontaneous phone calls;
- reviewing tasks or deadlines to help someone have a reasonable workload while managing their mental health; and
- being flexible with ‘trigger points’ for absence so that someone is not disadvantaged by taking absence when they are unwell.
Some individuals might not recognise their mental health condition as a disability, but it’s important that employers are aware that it could be. Employers must make reasonable adjustments when:
- they know, or could reasonably be expected to know, someone is disabled;
- a disabled staff member or job applicant asks for adjustments;
- someone who’s disabled is having difficulty with any part of their job; or
- someone’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is because of, or linked to, their disability.
Furthermore, the legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments does not only apply to employees, but also to:-
- contractors and self-employed people hired to personally do the work; and
- job applicants.
Employers would therefore be well advised to take note of this guidance and review any existing policies such as in respect of its recruitment practices and procedures, capability procedures and sickness absence policies.
If you or your business require any further advice in relation to these issues, or in respect of employment law issues generally, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the employment team at [email protected].
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