BAME people are not the only employees at risk from discrimination. Sometimes those with mental health problems are also treated worse at work because of their mental health condition. This falls squarely into the realms of discrimination and if one of your employees experiences it, they have a legal right to challenge it.

With mental health issues on the rise as a direct result of the Coronavirus outbreak, we take a whistlestop tour of some of the facts around mental health discrimination with Mind UK and how the law protects those who are discriminated against.

Quick Facts
The Equality Act 2010 is the law that gives an employee the right to challenge discrimination. There are six types of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 which might occur in the workplace:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Discrimination arising from disability
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation
  • Failing to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments

To find out more about each of these, click here for Mind’s information on disability discrimination.

To qualify for protection under the Equality Act, a person will usually need to show that a mental health problem is a disability. ‘Disability’ has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act.

The Equality Act says that a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

If a person has a mental health problem that is a disability, and they want the protection of the Equality Act, they will probably have to tell their employer about it.

Generally, employers can’t ask questions about candidates’ mental health before any job offer is made, though there are some exceptions to this rule. These include:

  • finding out whether a candidate will be able to take an assessment for the job
  • finding out whether a candidate needs reasonable adjustments to the application process
  • finding out whether a candidate will be able to do tasks that are central to the job (though consideration of the reasonable adjustments needed will apply)
  • Assessment of a candidate for national security purposes.

If a person believes they have experienced disability discrimination at work, then there are several things they can do to challenge the discrimination.

It is best to resolve disputes informally if possible, but if problems cannot be sorted out informally or by raising a formal grievance, then an employee can make a claim to the Employment Tribunal. If they are successful, the Tribunal has power to award financial compensation and/or make a recommendation (for example, making reasonable adjustments to help at work).

If a person’s work problems do not count as disability discrimination, they may still have other employment rights. ACAS has lots of help and guidance available on this.

Please Note: This article contains general legal information and is not intended as legal advice. To obtain legal advice, we recommend that you speak to a specialist legal adviser or solicitor who will help you with the specifics of your situation.


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