Disability – either physical or mental – is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
A problem is a disability if it has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on your normal day-to-day activities.
A mental health problem is a disability if (without treatment or medication):
- it has a medium or large effect on your someone’s everyday life
- it makes things more difficult for them
- it has lasted, or is likely to last, 12 months – or is likely to recur
A mental health problem meeting these criteria is legally recognised as a disability, regardless of whether the person actually considers it a disability.
Your organisation has a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments to the job role or working environment, to help staff overcome any disadvantages resulting from a disability. As a manager, you may be involved in discussing these with your employer and submitting a formal request for the adjustments your employee needs.
It’s illegal to ask questions about health during recruitment. It’s up to candidates to decide whether they want to tell you about a mental health problem – they’re not obliged at any point. If they do, employers must ensure they’re treated fairly during recruitment. CIPD provides detailed guidance on fair recruitment and disclosure.
You’re also legally required to assess the risk of stress-related ill health and take measures to control that risk.
CIPD and Mind recommend that you take a flexible approach to reasonable adjustments. Try and offer reasonable support to all staff, whether they have a formal diagnosis or not.