New ACAS guidance on reasonable adjustments for mental health
ACAS has recently published new guidance for both employers and employees on making reasonable adjustments for mental health in the workplace. The guidance includes:
- How to respond to mental health conditions;
- Examples of reasonable adjustments to consider;
- The process it recommends for employees and employers to follow when considering reasonable adjustments; and
- A recommendation for employers to have a reasonable adjustment policy.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments are changes an employer makes to remove or minimise a substantial disadvantage that an individual is facing due to their disability.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for job applicants, employees and previous employees who suffer from a disability. This duty only arises where an employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, about an individual’s disability.
A disability is a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect upon an individual’s ability to perform day-to-day activities. This means that employees suffering with mental health conditions can be deemed to have a disability and employers should treat them with the same care as those suffering from a physical disability.
If an employer does not consider or implement reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee, they could face claims for failing to make reasonable adjustments, discrimination arising from disability and indirect discrimination.
Key points from the guidance
- The guidance recommends employers consider reasonable adjustments even if the employee is not disabled as simple changes could be sufficient for the individual to remain in work and to support their well-being.
- When making reasonable adjustments for mental health, employers should remember that every job and employee is different so what works for one employee might not work for another. Mental health can also fluctuate over time and so adjustments made now might not work in the future.
- Making reasonable adjustments for mental health also benefits employers by amongst other things helping to retain employees thereby reducing recruitment and training costs, reducing absence and the cost of absence, ensuring people are working well, safely and productively and creating a healthy workplace culture.
- The guidance includes examples of reasonable adjustments which might be suitable for someone suffering with a mental health condition. These include reviewing responsibilities to reduce those that are more stressful, agreeing a preferred method of communication to help reduce anxiety and relocating someone’s workspace to a quieter area.
- Employees and employers should work together to agree reasonable adjustments and open up the conversation about mental health in the workplace. It is a subject which many people find hard to talk about so the guidance sets out helpful suggestions for both employers and employees when discussing mental health and reasonable adjustments.
- Employers should confirm reasonable adjustments to the employee in writing and follow up on whether the adjustments are beneficial or if anything further should be implemented.
- Employers should have a reasonable adjustments policy in place and ensure this is updated to include reasonable adjustments for mental health.
Whilst the guidance does not create any additional legal obligations, it is a helpful guide on how to support employees with mental health conditions in the workplace. The guidance also demonstrates best practice which tribunals will certainly consider when deciding if an employer has complied with their duty to make reasonable adjustments. Successful claims for disability discrimination attract unlimited compensation including compensation for injury to feelings. The most recent annual report of employment tribunal statistics revealed that the largest award for disability discrimination was £225,893.
You can view the guidance in full here
If you need further advice about making reasonable adjustments in the workplace, the ACAS guidance or updating your policies on mental health and reasonable adjustments, please contact Lauren Ogden on 0161 912 6150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.