Verdict reached in landmark mental health employment case
Posted Monday 15 June 2009
Cheltenham Borough Council has today lost its case to sue former employee Christine Laird for £1million for not disclosing her past experience of depression. Leading mental health charity Mind says the landmark ruling serves as an important reminder to employers about the importance of providing adequate support to people with mental health problems in the workplace.
Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: "This ruling provides reassurance to the one in four people in this country who will at some point have a mental health problem that they will not be penalised by their employer for being unwell. Mental illness is an illness like any other and employers need to do more to understand the issues people face and provide reasonable adjustments that help people to stay in their job."
"We know that less than half of employers say they would employ someone with a mental health problem (1) which means that people with experience of mental distress are often stuck between a rock and a hard place - disclose and face discrimination, or don’t disclose and run the risk of being ‘found out’ later and potentially sacked."
"We would always encourage people to disclose their mental health issues and to have an open dialogue with their employer. Current disability discrimination law already clearly states that it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their mental health so by disclosing you are protected by law."
"The concern now is that employers will introduce more stringent pre-employment questionnaires which will only serve to raise the barrier to employment for people with mental health problems. The Government must use the new Equalities Bill as an opportunity to restrict the use of pre-employment questionnaires and instead introduce a post appointment survey which will identify any need for additional support."
A snapshot poll by Mind (2) about employee’s experiences found:
- 1 in 4 had job offers withdrawn after disclosing a mental health problem which is illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act
- 58% had to leave a job because of a lack on mental health support.
- 31% had been sacked or forced out of a job after disclosing a mental health problem
- 26% had been demoted after disclosing a mental health problem
(1) Department of Work and Pensions (2001)
(2) Based on the responses of 279 people who completed a poll on Mind’s website in October 2008.
Notes to editors
- For more information, interviews and a range of case studies please contact Mind press office on T: 020 8522 1743 M: 07850 788514 E: firstname.lastname@example.org ISDN line available: 020 8221 0817.
- Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress. www.mind.org.uk
- Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.