Reasonable adjustments for mental health
ACAS has published new guidance to support employers and employees when managing adjustments for mental health at work.
Where an employee has a disability, the employer may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments. Under the Equality Act, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. The effect of an impairment is long term if it has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months. An adverse effect is substantial if it is more than minor or trivial. Mental health issues may, depending on the circumstances, be capable of amounting to a disability.
Where a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with employees who are not disabled, the employer has a duty to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.
Guidance on reasonable adjustments
The ACAS guidance includes advice on what reasonable adjustments for mental health are, how to respond to requests for reasonable adjustments, examples of reasonable adjustments and case studies.
Noting that reasonable adjustments are specific to each individual, the guidance suggests that this could cover:
- Changes to an employee’s physical working environment, for example relocating their workplace to a quieter area to reduce sensory demands.
- Changes to an employee’s working arrangements, for example reviewing someone’s responsibilities to reduce those that are more stressful.
- Finding a different way to do something, for example reviewing working relationships and communication styles, including agreeing a preferred communication method to help reduce anxiety.
- Adapting the way policies are applied, for example offering an extended phased return to support someone to build up hours gradually and continue their recovery.
- Providing equipment, services or support, for example providing training or coaching to build confidence in skills relevant to the job.
The guidance recommends that employers should work with an employee to agree reasonable adjustments for mental health and seek advice from Occupational Health. It also recommends monitoring the adjustments and putting in place a process to review the reasonable adjustments on an ongoing basis. There is also a reminder for employers to review their existing policies to make sure that they are suitable for employees with mental health issues.
The guidance states that although employers are only legally required to make reasonable adjustments if they know (or could reasonably be expected to know) that the employee has a disability, employers should try to make reasonable adjustments even if the issue is not a disability. This is on the basis that changes may help the employee to stay in work and work well.
It is worth remembering that it may not always be clear whether an employee has a disability or not. If an employer is aware or suspects that one of its employees may have a disability, it is important to seek medical advice. It is also important to consult with an employee in order to make a decision in relation to any adjustments required. A failure to do so could lead to a successful claim of disability discrimination. Whether an employee has a disability is ultimately a decision for the Employment Tribunal to make, in the event of a claim.
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25 April 2023
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