When situations at work turn hostile or blatantly discriminatory it can be very difficult to deal with. Even more so if these behaviours are in relation to mental health or illness.
Such discrimination can often be subtle and go unnoticed for long periods of time, particularly as mental health is often brushed over or ignored in the workplace.
So, what is mental health discrimination in the workplace and how can you work to combat it?
Is it discrimination?
Often, the issues surrounding this type of treatment at work lies with simple ignorance or a lack of knowledge. After all, it’s unlikely that the common worker will be aware of the many different facets of discrimination in the workplace. We all understand verbal abuse, physical altercations and the like. But, what about when it’s an ongoing mental pressure being placed upon us? In such a situation, it can be harder to acknowledge or examine the discrimination fully.
Discrimination is largely counted as something which either gives an advantage or causes a disadvantage in the workplace, based on something known as a ‘protected characteristic’. Such characteristics include disabilities, sexuality and, yes, mental health issues.
Proving this discrimination can be difficult and such ‘proof’ often takes many varying forms. Past evidence used in mental health discrimination at work includes family or friends testimonials in regards to difficulties experienced due to your condition, any written documents/communication in the workplace relating to your issues, or even video evidence if this is a possibility. You may not need proof, but if it is required by HR or even in a legal case at a later date, it is vital to have this on record.
If you feel that some form of mental health discrimination is taking place, it is important you bring this to the attention of HR, first and foremost. Reporting discrimination is the first step to dealing with it.
Here you can present your evidence and make it clear that this behaviour is not acceptable, as well as whether or not it is impacting any other aspect of your working life. It is best to follow up with a summary of your meeting, what was discussed and the initiatives laid out by yourself or HR in the meeting to occur afterwards. You will then have a written record of events. If nothing happens, the situation worsens or you do later seek legal action, this can be a vital element in your case.
Is legal action a possibility?
In some cases, the answer to this is absolutely yes. The Equality Action 2010 gives everyone the right to challenge discrimination, even in the workplace. If you believe and have evidence of some form of discrimination in relation to mental health, it is possible to seek legal action as a result.
In such cases, it is important to remember that a ‘disability’ under the Act is classed as anything which exhibits the following:
- A physical or mental impairment
- Something which has long-term effects
- Disrupts the possibility of carrying out daily activities (such as regularly attending work).
During this process, it is important to know that you may have to prove your condition is classed as a disability (with the help of an expert witness, such as a GP). You will then be required to put forward evidence of the discrimination where possible.
Seeking help in relation to mental health in the workplace, particularly in regards to discrimination, can be extremely difficult. Particularly as many people find it difficult to spot overall. Finding the strength to do something about it, to find a solicitor willing to listen to your case and guide you through it can be quite stressful. However, depending on the level of discrimination it can be vital to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the increased stress as well as preventing it from becoming an issue for anyone else in the future.
Mental health discrimination should not be tolerated anywhere, especially not at work where you spend a lot of time. So, seek the help of specialist solicitors to fully explore your options and discover the best course of action for your situation.
Article written by : Pannone Solicitors
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances, and is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Pannone Solicitors directly.
Published on 1st February 2019
(Last updated 4th June 2019)