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What mental health legislation do employers need to know about?

Employers need to ensure their employees are well looked after mentally and physically in the workplace. Over the past 20 years legislation and policy has evolved rapidly and detailed below are some of the key areas employers should be fully aware of.

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

This Act outlines provisions to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone at work. The Act relates to mental health because it categorises mental health issues developing as a result of work conditions as personal injury. Additionally, The Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999 places a legal duty on employers to protect employees from stress at work by carrying out and acting upon the findings of a risk assessment.

Equality Act (2010)

This Act combines many other historical anti-discrimination Acts including the Equal Pay Act 1970, and Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Characteristics protected by this act cover gender, age, race, disability, and sexual orientation. Mental health conditions considered disabilities under this Act include depression, bi-polar, self-harming behaviours, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia.

Employers need to be aware that for employees to ensure they are protected under the Equality Act, they usually need to disclose their mental health condition and prove it qualifies as a disability. ‘Disability’ has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act. Generally, employers can’t ask potential employees questions about their mental health before a job offer is made, though there are some exceptions. These may include finding out whether a potential employee will be able to do tasks that are central to the job, or if there is a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to the application or interview process.

Mental Health (Discrimination) Act (2013)

This Act eliminates the final significant forms of mental health discrimination from existing law. It abolishes legislation previously preventing people with mental health issues from serving on a jury, becoming a company director or serving as an MP.

Everyone should feel safe and supported to talk about their mental health at work. If people are treated differently because of a mental health issue, employers may be held accountable and risk facing prosecutions under the laws that protect mental ill health in the workplace.

Whilst the legislation is a necessity to reduce the risk of discrimination at work, employers could go a step further and look to implement internal mental health policies to manage mental health at work on a day to day basis. This is a forward thinking, proactive way of raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues in the workplace, and culturally a very positive step. Healthy Performance have a comprehensive mental health support package for employers which above all else help businesses to comply with the law. To find out more click here.


*The information contained in this article is general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend speaking to suitable qualified legal specialists or a solicitor who will help you with your individual needs if required.


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