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Discrimination at work

Some of us experience disability discrimination at work because of our mental health. Find out about the laws that protect us from discrimination, plus where to go for support and advice.

Telling my employer

The information on this page is relevant to telling your current employer.

If you're looking for information about telling a prospective employer, see our page on applying for jobs.

Should I tell my employer about my mental health problem?

If you have a mental health problem, you might feel unsure about telling your employer about it. You might feel worried about confidentiality or unfair treatment because of it.

However, if your mental health problem is a disability and you want the protection of the Equality Act, your employer needs to know about it.

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 can affect your job.
  • Who you want to share it with. For example, you might tell the human resources (HR) department about your diagnosis, but you don't have to tell your supervisor or colleagues.

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

Your employer might have asked you questions in the past about your health or disability. If you did not tell them about your mental health problem then, but now you want to tell them, you should get specialist legal advice.

It's best to get specialist advice because the law around this can be complicated – for both you and your employer.

For details on legal specialists who could help you, see our list of useful contacts.

How do I show my employer that my mental health problem is a disability?

Some employers 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 can help to have a note from your doctor or another professional to explain:

  • What mental health problems you have
  • How they may affect you at work
  • What reasonable adjustments might help you to manage your work

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

Using occupational health services

Your employer might refer you to occupational health if you have a mental health problem which is either:

  • Affecting your work.
  • Causing you to take time off sick. Particularly if the time off is more than 2 or 3 weeks at once.

Occupational health referrals will help your employer understand what adjustments they need to make to support you at work.

Occupational health services may also make an assessment of your ability to do your job. If you disagree with the result, it's important to get specialist legal advice. For more details, see our list of useful contacts.

You can read more about occupational health services on the Acas website.

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

Your employer is under a duty to make adjustments if both of these conditions are met:

  • Your mental health problem is a disability
  • A feature of your work is causing you major disadvantage because of this disability

If so, the employer must make adjustments for you to avoid this major disadvantage.

Examples of adjustments you could ask for include:

  • Changes to your physical work environment
  • Changes to your working hours
  • Spending time working from home
  • Taking time off work for mental health treatment, assessment or rehabilitation
  • Temporarily finding someone else to do tasks you find stressful and difficult
  • Getting some workplace mentoring

What counts as ‘reasonable’?

The adjustments have to be ‘reasonable’ for your employer to make. Whether a change is reasonable or not depends on the circumstances of each case. For example:

  • If the adjustment brings a solution that helps with your disadvantage
  • How practicable it is for the employer to make the adjustment
  • Your employer's size and resources available, including financial resources
  • What financial or other assistance may be available to make the adjustment

To think about what changes could help you at work, try talking to your GP or another health or social care professional who knows about your mental health problem. You should also get a letter from them to back up any request you want to make.

Employers can sometimes get financial help with making reasonable adjustments, including cost of transport. This might be from the government's Access to Work service. Free mental health support in the workplace is also available from Able Futures.

Example of a reasonable adjustment: working hours

Liz works in a flower shop which employs 5 people. The shop is open from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, the same working hours as Liz.

She has depression and anxiety, and finds that rush-hour travel on public transport makes her feel very unwell. Her working hours disadvantage her because of her disability.

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

Examples of reasonable adjustments: creating a plan

Jorge has generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). His contract of employment says that:

  • His hours of work are from 9 to 5 daily
  • 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 off in any 3-month period, they'll be invited to a sickness absence meeting.

When he first read the policy, Jorge told his employer about his mental health problem. He explained that his contract requirement to work 9 to 5 in the head office would be difficult at times of stress. Together they came up with a plan to help Jorge with his work.

This plan includes:

  • Letting him work from home when he is feeling anxious
  • Giving him flexible start and finish times
  • Giving him a work mentor who can support him during stressful periods at work
  • Allowing slightly longer periods of absence before taking action under the sickness policy

Writing a letter to ask for changes at work

If you want your employer to make reasonable adjustments, you may want to write a letter setting out what you need.

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

  • Informal help or support from a friend, family member or advocate
  • Legal advice from a specialist legal adviser or solicitor – find out who you can ask on our useful contacts page

This information was published in November 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

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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