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Discrimination at work

Explains what laws protect you from discrimination at work, what you can do if you are discriminated against, and where you can get support and advice.

Should I tell my employer about my mental health problem?

If you have a mental health problem, you might not want to tell your employer about it because you are worried about confidentiality or how you may be treated. However, if you have a mental health problem that is a disability and you want the protection of the Equality Act, your employer needs to know this.

If you do decide to tell your employer, think about:

  • How and when to do it. It can be helpful to have a note from your doctor to help explain your situation.
  • How much information you want to give. You don't have to go into personal details, just focus on how your mental health problem impacts on your job.
  • Whom to share it with. For example, the human resources (HR) department may know your diagnosis, but they don't have to tell your supervisor or colleagues.

For more information about telling your employer about your mental health problem, see our pages on how to be mentally healthy at work.

If your employer has asked you questions in the past about your health or disability and you did not tell them about your mental health problem then, and now you do want to tell them, you should get some specialist legal advice. (See Useful contacts for details.)

How do I show my employer that I have a disability?

Sometimes your employer may accept what you say without asking for more information. But, because mental health problems aren't visible, it may be hard to explain your situation to your employer.

It is helpful to have a note from your doctor or another professional to explain:

  • what mental health problems you have
  • how they may affect you
  • what adjustments might help you to manage your work.

You could also show your employer our information on different types of mental health problems.

What is the occupational health service?

Your employer can refer you to occupational health if you have a mental health problem that is affecting your work or causing you to take time off sick, particularly if this is more than 2 or 3 weeks at once. Occupational health referrals will help your employer understand what adjustments need to be made to support you at work.

Occupational health services may also make an assessment of your ability to do your job. If you disagree with this it is important to get specialist legal advice. (See Useful contacts for details.)

There is also a government funded occupational health service called Fit for Work. Fit for Work offers free, expert and impartial work-related health advice to employers, employees and GPs.

What kinds of adjustments can I ask my employer to make?

If your mental health problem is a disability and there is a feature of your work which is causing you major disadvantage because of this disability, then your employer is under a duty to make adjustment to avoid that disadvantage.

Examples of adjustments you could ask for include:

  • changes to your working area
  • changes to your working hours
  • spending time working from home
  • being allowed to take time off work for treatment, assessment or rehabilitation
  • temporarily re-allocating tasks you find stressful and difficult
  • getting some mentoring.

The adjustments have to ones that are reasonable for your employer to make. Whether a change is reasonable or not depends on the circumstances of each case, but may include:

  • if the change deals with the disadvantage
  • how practicable it is to make the change
  • your employer's size and financial and other resources
  • what financial or other assistance may be available to make the change.


Liz works for a flower shop which employs five people. The shop is open from 9am–5pm and Liz works these hours. She has depression and anxiety, and she finds that rush hour travel on public transport makes her feel very unwell. Her hours of work disadvantage her because of her disability.

  • It is not reasonable for Liz's employer to pay for her to travel to and from work by taxi as this is too costly for a small business.
  • It is not reasonable for Liz's employer to adjust her duties so that she doesn't have to work on the till, as this wouldn't address or resolve the disadvantage she faces in getting to and from work on time.
  • It might be reasonable for Liz's employer to adjust her working hours to 8am–4pm, so that she doesn't have to travel during peak rush hour. This would be practicable for her employer because they can give her responsibility for opening up the shop each morning, and Liz can process overnight orders before the shop opens to the public.

It can be useful to discuss with your GP or another health or social care professional who knows about your mental health problem what changes to your workplace could help you at work. You should also get a letter to back up any request you want to make.

Employers can sometimes get financial help with making reasonable adjustments, including cost of transport from the government's Access to Work service (find out more on the website). This also offers a workplace mental health support service for employees and prospective employees with mental health problems (find out more on Remploy's website).

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Jorge has generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). His contract of employment says that his hours of work are 9am–5pm each day and that his place of work is the head office of his employer. His employer's sickness policy says that if employees have more than 5 days absence in any rolling 3 month period they will be invited to a sickness absence meeting.

Jorge told his employer about his mental health problem, and explained that the contractual requirement to work 9am–5pm in the office was difficult at times of stress. Together they came up with a plan to help him with his work.

This plan includes:

  • letting him work from home when he is feeling anxious
  • giving him a flexible approach to start and finish times
  • giving him a work mentor who he can get support from during stressful periods at work
  • allowing slightly longer periods of absence before taking action under the sickness policy than would apply to other employees.

Letter asking your employer to make changes at work

If you want your employer to make changes at your work, you may want to write a letter setting this out.

Draft letter asking your employer for changes

Download a draft letter asking your employer to make changes (Word or PDF – new window).

To help you draft your letter, you may want to get some:

  • informal help or support from a friend, family member or advocate, or
  • legal advice from a specialist legal adviser or solicitor.

This information was published in March 2018.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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