ACAS Guidance on Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health at Work

Angela Renwick
Angela Renwick
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ACAS has recently published new guidance on reasonable adjustments for mental health at work. The guidance can be accessed here.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees, workers, and job applicants with a disability. A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities meets the definition of a disability in law. The law affords an employee with such an impairment protection from discrimination, and obliges employers to make reasonable adjustments to alleviate or remove any substantial disadvantage suffered by the employee as a result of their disability.

Employers are more aware than ever that they must take mental health conditions seriously; we see an increasing focus from employers of all shapes and sizes in terms of managing and supporting employees with mental health conditions in the same way as employees who have physical conditions.

As the ACAS guidance outlines, mental health problems can:

  • happen suddenly, because of a specific event in someone’s life;
  • build up gradually over time;
  • be hard to spot because everyone has different signs and signals;
  • be hidden because many people find it difficult to talk about their mental health; and
  • fluctuate over time which means that an employee’s ability to cope with the demands of the job might change.

Management and support of employees with mental health conditions will therefore necessarily be a fluid, reactive process, requiring ongoing and open dialogue between the employer and the employee wherever possible.

The new ACAS guidance aims to support employers and employees in handling reasonable adjustments for mental health at work. It covers:

  • What reasonable adjustments for mental health are;
  • Examples of reasonable adjustments for mental health;
  • Requesting reasonable adjustments for mental health;
  • Responding to reasonable adjustments for mental health requests;
  • Managing employees with reasonable adjustments for mental health; and
  • Reviewing policies with mental health in mind.

Making reasonable adjustments for mental health can help to retain employees, improve performance, reduce absence, provide a safe and productive working environment, and create a supportive work culture more widely for your team.

When making reasonable adjustments for mental health, it is important to acknowledge that every individual is different, every job is different and mental health may fluctuate over time. Therefore, employers and employees should work together to come to an agreement about any reasonable adjustments being made. These adjustments should be monitored over time to ensure they are still suitable in the circumstances.  Medical and/or occupational health input and guidance is likely to be required during this process to enable the parties to identify what adjustments may be appropriate. Any agreement reached around reasonable adjustments should be recorded in writing for future reference.

It is worth noting that the obligation on employers is to make reasonable adjustments. Therefore, an employer is not necessarily obliged to accommodate an adjustment which an employee requests if it is not reasonable in the circumstances. Employers should take specialist legal advice if considering refusing to accommodate an adjustment which has been requested, as failing to make an adjustment which is reasonable could lead to litigation at the employment tribunal.

If you would like to discuss this new guidance, or if we can provide support or assistance on any other employment law matters, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team on 0141 331 5150.

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