While money and the right job are part of the equation, having a supportive workplace – and boss – can keep us on an even keel
There is ‘doing the right thing’ and then there is ‘doing the legal minimum’. The best employers make sure their staff are fully supported, others do the least they can get away with. Many, though, do not understand the law when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace. Just knowing our rights and where to go if they’re not being respected at least offers a little peace of mind.
WHAT LAW WHERE?
The Equality Act became law in October 2010. It ensures employers and employees know what to do to make workplaces fair. It is increasingly recognised that mental illness should be dealt with just like physical illness and so, at a point, it can be considered a disability.
An employer is required to consider making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for staff or job applicants who are in anyway disabled by a health condition. This could mean a desk near a window for someone with vision problems or, say, flexible hours for someone with a mental health issue. They may not be able to meet our needs but if they don’t even consider it, they could end up in an Employment Tribunal.
Bosses should think about reasonable adjustments as soon as they become aware of someone’s disability or if someone has difficulty with their job. An employee’s sickness record should trigger the question to be asked too. If they do not make or even consider adjustments, and if it discriminates against disabled people, they must robustly prove that their business would be harmed if they did.
Good employers can level the playing field by taking what the law terms ‘positive action’ to help employees or job applicants with a disability or health problem, so long as it does not discriminate against other people.
Many employers believe a more diverse workforce creates a better working environment for everyone. ‘Lived experience’ can sometimes be a benefit to employers, for instance if their customers have similar needs.