If you're experiencing a mental health problem that is impacting your working life, it can be tricky to know what action to take. But there is support available to help you in the workplace. This page covers:
- deciding whether to tell your employer about your mental health problem
- what support you can ask for at work
- taking time off work
Remember: if you are considered disabled (as defined by the Equality Act) because of your mental health problem, you have specific rights in relation to getting support at work. See our pages on discrimination and discrimination at work for more information.
Should I tell my employer about my mental health problem?
If you have an ongoing mental health problem, or are struggling with your wellbeing, you may feel unsure whether to tell your employer or not. You might experience barriers such as:
- not knowing who, when or how to tell
- being unsure of how much to tell
- worrying how they will react
- worrying that there will be negative consequences
The possible benefits of talking about your mental health at work include:
- having a stronger basis for requesting support at work
- not having to hide any difficulties you are experiencing
- if you choose to tell colleagues, others may also open up about their experiences of mental health problems
Telling anyone about your mental health is a personal choice – there is no right or wrong answer. However if your mental health problem is considered a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act, you will have a right to reasonable adjustments – but to get them, your employer must know about your disability.
Talking to my employer was very hard because of shame and confidentiality reasons but I was surprised and felt much more supported and understood.
How do I tell my manager?
It can be difficult to know how to start the conversation. To make the process easier you may want to think about:
- talking to your manager in private during supervision or requesting a one-to-one meeting
- what you would like to say during the meeting. You might find it useful to bring some notes with you
- filling out a Wellness Action Plan (WAP). This can help you to think about your support needs and what would help you stay well in the workplace. You can find Mind's example WAP and a guide for your manager about WAPs online here.
For further guidance, see our information on telling your employer. The Time to Change website also has information on talking about your mental health at work.
What changes can I ask for at work?
Changing something about your working environment or the way you do your job may help you to stay well and work more effectively. You can make some of the changes on your own. Others will require action or agreement from your employer.
What are 'reasonable adjustments?'
If you have a mental health condition that is considered to be a disability, and your employer knows this, they have a duty under the Equality Act to make 'reasonable adjustments' for you. These adjustments can be temporary or made on a permanent basis. See our page on discrimination at work for more information.
If you're not covered by the Equality Act, it's still best practice for your employer to support you, within what is reasonable for your role. When asking about changes, remember that you are the best judge of what you need.
What will be helpful for you will depend on what sort of work you do, and what sort of things you find difficult. You might want to ask about changes like:
- use voicemail to take messages if phone calls make you anxious
- use email where possible if you find face-to-face contact stressful
- discuss flexible working to suit your needs, for example, so you can attend medical appointments
- if you find it difficult to concentrate, move to a quieter workspace
- if you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) move to a workstation by a window or ask for a lightbox
- ask for on-the-job support (such as a workplace mentor) or permission for a support worker to come in or be contacted during work hours
- permission to take time out when distressed. This could just be a few minutes away from your workstation, going out for some air, or having a short rest
My employer understands exactly what it is I'm going through. They help and support me any way they can. I'm one of the lucky ones.
If you have a diagnosed mental health problem, think about what specifically could help you with the problems you experience. Your employer might refer you to an occupational health advisor for advice on how best to support you. For ideas and tips on coping, see our self care information for different mental health problems.
What if I need to take time off work?
If you are too unwell to work at the moment, you may need to take some time off from work. Sickness absence for your mental health is just as valid as absence for physical health problems. Taking time off does not mean that you won't ever go back to work.
If you are off work for more than seven days in a row, you will need to get a 'fit note' from your GP or hospital doctor. In most cases, you are entitled to statutory sick pay from your employer for the first 28 days that you are off sick. For more information, see the government website on taking sick leave.
Your employer should support you when you are ready to return to work. Take a look at our page on returning to work.
This information was published in April 2016. We will revise it in 2019.