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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.
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 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.)
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:
You could also show your employer our information on different types of mental health problems.
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.
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:
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:
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 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 gov.uk 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).
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:
If you want your employer to make changes at your work, you may want to write a letter setting this out.
'Disability' has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act, which is broader than the usual way you might understand the word. The Equality Act says that you have a disability if you have an impairment that is either physical or mental and the impairment has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on your normal daily activities.See our full list of legal terms.
The job of an occupational health professional is to assess you to find out:
Your employer can refer you to occupational health if you have a physical or mental health problem that is affecting your work or causing you to take time off sick, particularly if this is more than two or three weeks at once.
If you disagree with their assessment, it is important to seek advice.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in March 2018. We will revise it in 2020.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.