Deciding whether to tell an employer about a mental health condition and/or disability is entirely up to an individual, it is not a legal requirement to disclose. Disclosing mental health is seen as the biggest barrier to many employees, the CIPD in 2016 found that more than four in ten (43%) employees would not feel comfortable disclosing unmanageable stress or poor mental health to their employer or manager, while a survey conducted by Mind found many employees did not feel comfortable disclosing their mental health problem, worrying that their employer will think they can’t do their job and that they would be treated differently.
Evidence suggests employees being caution about whether to close or not is warranted. In 2017, the BITC found of those employees who disclosed a mental health issue, 15% were subject to disciplinary procedures, demotion, or dismissal (up from 9% in 2016).
As the employer, the emphasis falls on you to create a welcoming environment around mental health.
Equality Act 2010“You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”
The Equality Act also states that even if you have a condition that has got better, you are still protected should it come back. Should you fall under this definition you have legal protection against discrimination in the workplace and can challenge any behaviour you deem discriminatory in a court of law.
Key MessagesWhile mental ill health is a sensitive and personal issue – like any health problem – most people prefer honest and open enquiries over reluctance to address the issue.
Shying away from the subject can perpetuate fear of stigma and increase feelings of anxiety. Often employees will not feel confident in speaking up, so a manager making the first move to open up a dialogue can be key
The decision of whether to talk about your mental health condition at work is a personal one – there’s no right or wrong answer, and every situation is different.
Some quick tips to follow around handling disclosures– Create strict policies about who is made aware of disclosures.
– As a rule, involve as few people as possible.
– Reassure the individual that any private information they disclose will not be leaked to their colleagues.
– Discuss with the individual any information they would like to be shared with team colleagues and how, as this can be very supportive for some people.