Mental health continues to be misunderstood and stigmatised.
We aim here to correct some misconceptions by busting myths about mental health and employment.
Myth – A disabled person is someone in a wheelchair.
Fact – The definition of disability in The Equality Act 2010 covers physical and mental impairments.
This of course includes people in wheelchairs but also other physical disabilities such as blindness, deafness and loss of a limb. Also covered are ‘invisible’ mental health conditions.
The Equality Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”
This legal definition clearly covers a wide spectrum of physical and mental conditions, provided they meet the relevant criteria.
Myth – A job applicant has to tell an employer they are disabled.
Fact – No, a disabled person is entitled to keep their disability confidential if they want to.
They are not allowed to be asked if they have a disability, except in very limited circumstances. If they do inform a prospective employer that they have a disability, further questions about it should not be asked. However, applicants should disclose their condition if it may pose a risk at work to themselves or others.
It is advisable for employers to ask applicants if they need any reasonable adjustments to be made to enable them to participate in the process. This could include an alternative method of submitting an application, for example. This is not the same as asking if someone is disabled.
Myth – an employee has to tell their employer they are disabled.
Fact – If an employee requires their employer to make reasonable adjustments to enable them to carry out their job, they will most likely need to disclose their disability. Otherwise it would be difficult for an employer to agree.
Whilst an employer cannot be held liable for failing to make reasonable adjustments if they are not aware of the disability, they are expected to do all they reasonably can to find out if an employee is disabled. They will be expected to make reasonable adjustments if they “ought to have known” that the employee was disabled.
Myth – A disability dispute will be a lengthy and costly process.
Fact – Not always. Some disputes can be resolved easily without any legal input. Disputes can be resolved informally or through formal workplace channels such as a grievance or mediation, before any extreme legal measures are taken. It is only in the worst case scenario and as a last resort that legal proceedings should follow.
Myth – It is expensive hiring someone with a mental health condition.
Fact – Most reasonable adjustments don’t cost anything or cost very little and so the cost of hiring someone with a mental health condition is not necessarily more than hiring someone who does not have a mental health condition.
Note: This article first appeared on the Moray Employment Law website in August 2018.