What Are My Rights With Mental Health at Work?02 Jan, 20241-2 minutes
In this blog, you will learn:
- What mental health is.
- Can you take time off work for mental health?
- What to do if your workplace doesn’t prioritise mental health.
- What your rights are with mental health at work.
What is mental health?
Mental health refers to our emotional, social and psychological wellbeing and can affect how we feel, act and think.
Positive mental health can result in feeling in control of your day to day life, being productive, utilising your skills, and contributing something valuable to society.
Positive mental health isn’t just about feeling happy all the time; it's about connecting with others and finding meaning in what you do.
However, suffering from poor mental health can cause problems in different aspects of your day-to-day life, from your relationships to your career.
Some of the most common signs of poor mental health include:
- Feeling worried or guilty.
- A change in sleep pattern.
- Feeling sad or low.
- Experiencing extreme mood changes.
- Problems with alcohol or drug use.
- Major changes in eating habits.
- Suicidal thinking.
According to mental health charity, MIND, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, highlighting how important it is to look after your own wellbeing and check up on those around you.
What are my rights with mental health at work?
Your employer has a responsibility to support your wellbeing, including your mental health, by taking reasonable steps to create a safe and supportive work environment.
If you have a mental health condition, it's important to know that you should not face discrimination or be treated unfairly in the workplace.
While you may not always identify your mental health condition as a disability, it's crucial for employers to recognise that it could fall under this category. The Equality Act of 2010, states that your employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your needs.
It's important to be aware of your rights in the workplace, which include:
- Equal treatment.
- Flexible working.
- Access to support.
The principle of equal treatment relates to a person’s right to fair and unbiased treatment without discrimination in the workplace.
Individuals facing mental health conditions are protected under disability discrimination laws. This means that your employer is legally bound to treat employees with mental health issues fairly, just as they would treat individuals with physical disabilities.
Your employer must provide fair treatment and make reasonable adjustments to support employees with mental health issues, ensuring a workplace that values and respects the wellbeing of every individual.
Your employer is legally bound to handle details about your mental health with utmost confidentiality. This means they cannot disclose this information without your explicit consent and they must respect your privacy.
However, there are specific situations where disclosure might be necessary, primarily when it is crucial for your safety or the safety of others.
If your employer believes that you pose an imminent threat of harm to yourself or others, they may disclose this information, notifying appropriate authorities, such as mental health professionals or law enforcement.
If you disclose your mental health condition to request workplace accommodations or adjustments, this information may also be shared with relevant individuals within the organisation to facilitate the implementation of such accommodations.
An employer's commitment to keeping your mental health status private, unless it needs to be disclosed for the reasons above, is vital for creating a safe space within the workplace to talk freely about mental health.
If you're struggling with a mental health condition, you have the right to request a work setup that suits you better. This might mean working part time hours, working from home, or adjusting your schedule.
Flexible working can improve your wellbeing by reducing commuting stress, providing more control over your work, and fostering a healthier work-life balance.
It’s important that employers understand that mental health is different for everyone and are able to offer flexibility to support each person's unique needs.
Having the option of flexible working shows that the company cares about your wellbeing, recognising that a flexible approach can make a big difference for a person who is balancing work and mental health.
Access to support
Your employer should provide access to support such as counselling services or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
Providing services means that there’s confidential and accessible support in your workplace at all times. Whether it's awareness campaigns, training for managers, or resources provided by charities, employers have a responsibility to provide support and equip employees with the tools needed to look out for their wellbeing.
Can I take time off work for mental health?
Employers are obligated to give you sick leave when you're dealing with illness, whether it's a physical ailment or a mental health condition.
If you need to take time off for your mental health, your employer has to pay you Statutory Sick Pay. However, if you're off for more than a week, you might be requested to obtain a note from your doctor, to explain why you aren’t able to attend work.
Having an honest conversation with your employer can be useful. Once you've shared how you are feeling and explained the situation to them, they might be more understanding about your need for time off.
What can I do if my workplace doesn't prioritise mental health?
In a world where mental health is as important as ever, navigating a workplace that doesn't prioritise mental health can be challenging, but there are a number of ways you can approach this issue.
Here are a few steps we advise taking if you’re workplace doesn’t prioritise mental health:
- Take regular breaks where possible.
- Speak to your manager or HR.
- Go for a walk during your lunch break.
- Evaluate your options.
Take regular breaks where possible
If your workplace doesn’t prioritise mental health, taking regular breaks can be beneficial. While it might be challenging to step away from your desk, especially during busy periods, taking just a few minutes for a break can have positive effects on both your mental wellbeing and productivity.
According to The Wellbeing Thesis, studies have found that breaks can reduce or prevent stress, help to maintain performance throughout the day and reduce the need for a long recovery at the end of the day.
Whether it's a short break in the fresh air, reading an uplifting book, or making a hot drink, incorporating regular breaks into your day can make a noticeable difference.
Speak to your manager or HR
Having an open chat with your manager or HR team will not only let them know what you're going through, but also raise awareness about mental health in the workplace.
By sharing your concerns with a senior member of staff, it can highlight the need for support and access to helpful resources. Remember, you might not be the only person in your workplace struggling with a mental health problem.
Speaking to your manager or HR team is a good way to kickstart a conversation about creating a culture where everyone feels understood and listened to.
Go for a walk during your lunch break
Going for a walk during your lunch break is beneficial as exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain known to decrease stress and lift a person’s mood.
Regular physical activity has also been linked to better sleep quality. Quality sleep is essential for mental wellbeing and cognitive function.
Evaluate your options
Taking time to evaluate your options when your workplace doesn’t prioritise mental health is crucial.
If you’re worried about explaining to your manager why you are leaving the company, check out our advice on how to explain leaving a job for mental health reasons.
Your mental health should be a priority, and being in an environment that doesn’t recognise this can take a toll on you.
By exploring new job opportunities, you open doors to workplaces that do value and prioritise mental health. Being in a supportive environment often leads to opportunities for professional growth.
Taking the time to weigh up your options isn't just about finding a better fit; it's about actively choosing a workplace that supports your mental wellbeing and contributing to a positive work culture.
Who is Spencer Clarke Group
Since 2017, we've been changing the face of recruitment. From our employees, to the way we do business, to the culture within our office, we're determined to make a difference and create a positive impact on everyone around us.
Recruitment to us isn't just about matching candidates and clients; we’re passionate about finding candidates the perfect job which has the ability to boost their salary and standard of living, better their work life balance and improve their mental health.
Similarly, we understand the impact which an experienced and skilled employee can make to a business and we love seeing clients thrive through the hard work of candidates which we have placed with them.
We operate in two sectors:
In eleven specialisms: