ACAS have recently published new guidance relating to employers’ duty to provide reasonable adjustments for mental health conditions in the workplace. This is the first time that ACAS has launched guidance relating specifically to reasonable adjustments relating to mental health conditions, which reflects the growing importance of taking mental health seriously. Darwin Gray’s employment team have explored what this new guidance means for employers.
What is the employer’s duty?
An employer has a duty to protect the health and wellbeing of its employees. If a mental health condition is recognised as a disability under law, the Equality Act 2010 makes it necessary for employers to make reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments are changes that an employer makes to help disabled employees at work or encourage disabled employees to return to work.
The new ACAS Guide places a duty on employers to ‘try to make reasonable adjustments even if the issues do not relate to a disability,’ and states that an employer should make reasonable adjustments if:
- An employer knows, or are reasonably expected to know, that someone is disabled;
- A disabled staff member or job applicant asks for adjustments;
- Someone who is disabled is having difficulty with their job; and/or
- Someone’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is because of, or linked to, their disability.
The Guide provides that employers should recognise that every job is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Employers should also bear in mind that every employee is different, that mental health fluctuates, and that focus should be on the adjustments that can be made to improve the employee’s experience at the workplace.
What types of reasonable adjustments can I provide?
The ACAS Guide has provided examples of possible reasonable adjustments related to mental health. They include:
- Changing the employee’s role and responsibilities, for example reducing customer facing work;
- Reviewing working relationships and communication styles;
- Changing the physical working environment, for example allowing homeworking;
- Reviewing policy changes, for example offering a phased return to work;
- Providing additional support.
What should I do if an employee requests reasonable adjustments related to their mental ill-health?
The Guide suggests that employers who receive a reasonable adjustments request related to mental ill-health should:
- Agree a time and place to meet with the employee;
- Check with the employee if they are comfortable with a trusted person sitting in on the meeting to take a note;
- Review their internal mental health, absence, and reasonable adjustments policies, and share these with the employee;
- Carefully selecting who represents the employer in the meeting; it is advised that someone with mental health training should attend;
- Try putting themselves in their employee’s shoes;
- Review what reasonable adjustments are available and reasonable to implement, identifying any potential risks with implementing these, and (where appropriate) getting advice from an occupational health professional on these;
- Reassuring the employee that they want to support them and provide adjustments which are reasonable.
How can I ensure that my mental health policies are up to date?
The Guide advises employers to consider if their policies reflect the following:
- Are clear and accessible;
- Use language that demonstrates care;
- Whether they have ‘trigger points’ for absence which place employees with recognised and ongoing mental health problems at a disadvantage;
- Allow managers and employee to take a person-by-person approach;
- Are flexible enough to accommodate mental health conditions that might change; and
- Are understood and implemented consistently by managers.
This new ACAS Guide illustrates that employers should have relevant policies in place to ensure the management of disability related issues, including the implementation of reasonable adjustments for mental impairments as well as physical ones. As a result, employees have greater protection as they can now rely on more formal guidance when it comes to reasonable adjustments for mental health conditions.
If you require assistance with updating your policies, implementing reasonable adjustments or need help to navigate your way around the new guidance on managing mental health issues in the workplace, contact Owen John on 02920 829 118 or [email protected] for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.