Mental health impairment automatically a disability? No. 

Mental health impairment automatically a disability? No. 

As specialists in disability discrimination we frequently assist individuals who suffer from mental health impairments including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. They report feeling that they are being treated differently or being subjected to a detriment because of this impairment or its impact on their ability to do their job. 

Mental health impairments can be a disability under the Equality Act 2010. But this is not automatically the case. If your employer disputes that you have a disability then proving that you meet the legal definition will be your first hurdle in succeeding in your claim for disability discrimiantion. A diagnosis is not enough. An employer must also have or ought to have knowledge of the disability. 

Our Karen Jackson has written a detailed blog on proving disability in tribunal claims. You can read it here. In summary, the legal test for disability is:

  • Is there a physical or mental impairment (or both)?
  • Is the impairment long-term i.e. has it lasted for 12 months or more at the time of the alleged discrimination or is it likely to last 12 months or lifelong?
  • Does it have a substantial impact i.e. more than one which is minor or trivial?
  • Does it have an adverse impact on the ability to carry out normal day to day activities? The focus should be on what the disabled person cannot do or can only do with difficulty not on what they can do.

Stigma surrounding mental health impairments persist but events such World Mental Health Day provide an opportunity to focus on our mental health and open up discussions. 

If you are having difficulties at work or recognise that an employee is being impacted because of a physical or mental health impairment, then there are steps that can be taken. Having a conversation about this may help. An employee may not want to discuss their health with their line manager, but a referral to Occupational Health may provide a more comfortable setting for the employee to discuss their health. If adjustments can be made that can alleviate the impact of the impairment on the person’s ability to do their job then surely this is an advantage to both. 

10 October is World Mental Health Day. For more information you can visit the World Health Organization website. 

This blog was written by Jo Sinclair, Solicitor at didlaw.