The Hidden Disability: Mental Health at Work

Mental Health Awareness Week, 14th - 20th May 2018, is an opportunity for employers to revisit current practices and to see if their policy and culture match up to best practice.

The taboo of talking about mental health has started to shift, following several high-profile campaigns, but many employers are keeping quiet and avoiding conversations with staff, even though they have legal responsibilities and it’s been shown to improve the bottom line.

According to the Health & Safety Executive, over 11 million working days are lost each year, because of stress in the workplace. Research among workers by MIND, the mental health charity, found that a continuing culture of fear and silence around the topic was adding up to a big cost to employers, with over 20% reporting they had called in sick to avoid workplace stress, and 30% saying they did not feel they would be able to speak openly with their line manager about the issue.

Such figures highlight the need for companies to have strategies focused on mental health as part of employee wellbeing, to tackle stress-related absence and to avoid potential complaints or even litigation from staff.

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by undertaking a risk assessment and acting on it. And where an employee is suffering from a mental health condition which has a long-term effect on day to day activity, this may be classed as a disability, requiring the employer to take positive action under the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably because of their disability, without a justifiable reason.

Also it may be important that employers know about any medication being taken if it may affect an employee’s ability to undertake tasks or operate machinery. That requires an open culture, and clear routes for employees to raise such matters.

‘Best practice for employers to have clearly stated policies that are reflected in the company’s culture,’ explains Sue Ball, Head of Employment at Verisona Law. ‘This should support a manager who notices a change in personality, evidence of low mood or periods of increased absence, and make them feel equipped to enquire if any workplace support is needed. It needs to happen in a supportive environment where the employee feels comfortable in opening up and asking for help, if needed.

‘It’s important to avoid an atmosphere where an employee feels that raising the issue of mental health may affect their future prospects, or that they will feel stigmatised by asking for help. Unwillingness to talk can make for a difficult position for employers.’

‘In creating and maintaining a culture of wellbeing, an employer should start from a perspective of how best to provide everyone with responsible support and protection from unfair or discriminatory treatment and should reflect that in processes and practice. If anyone has issues that impact on how they may perform a particular function – whether related to physical or mental health - then it’s important to look at how to introduce reasonable adjustments to enable them to fulfil the role.’

Sue Ball is Head of Employment Law at Verisona. If you would like further information please contact Sue on 023 9231 2053 or email

Here are the types of cases we handle:

  • Contracts of Employment
  • Employer Staff Handbooks
  • Redundancy Process
  • Breach of Contract
  • Breach of Restrictive Covenants
  • Tribunal Claims
  • Settlement Agreements
  • Consultancy Agreements

Sports and Football Law

  • Contracts of Employment
  • Service Agreements
  • Contractual Issues
  • Executive Departures

"Over the years, I have developed a great trust in my working relationship with Mike Dyer, Head of Commercial Law at Verisona. One of the things I value most is that he is always at the end of a phone. On the rare occasions he is unavailable, his secretary is always well informed and very helpful. Through Mike, I have met many other members of Verisona and, just like in the recruitment industry, they understand the importance of being treated like an individual. They make me feel valued and important to both them and their business. At Verisona, you always deal with real people who you know and are in a position to help. Most importantly, Verisona delivers. We recently had an urgent situation regarding the restrictive covenants of new members of staff. Employment specialist Susan Ball came in on a day off to listen to us, dissect and analyse the situation, and translate what we wanted to achieve into the best possible legal language and solution. This is just one example of the calm, efficient professionalism I have come to value from Verisona over the years. Verisona has a refreshing approach to the law. They are there when we need them, always easy to talk to, go out of their way to make sure that we understand what they are doing for us and why, and always get the best results".

Stuart Cox

Legally enforcing the tribunal award

To enforce the Tribunal award we applied to the Defendant’s local County Court for it to be registered and for permission to enforce the award.  

The Court granted the application and on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines.  As a result the Tribunal award would appear as a County Court Judgment which would likely affect the Defendant’s credit rating. 

Time limits for enforcing Tribunal awards

It is worth noting that there is no time restriction for registering or enforcing a Tribunal award. You can enforce one even if it is several years old.  In addition, it is usually possible to claim interest on the amount until you receive payment.

A commercial business

"Thanks for all your help on this - you've been so helpful to me in guiding and explaining everything, so just to say thank you for obviously helping represent my case but also allowing me to understand the process and giving me greater awareness of what I need to be mindful of when signing future contracts".

Former employee of professional football club

Sue was easy to deal with and offered all options available. Jane was in contact beforehand to tell me what information was needed and Sue was prepared for our meeting. I cannot praise Sue and Jane enough and would have absolutely no hesitation in reommending Sue and her team.

Mr B

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