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Mental health at work

Should you tell your employer that you’ve got a mental health issue like depression or anxiety? Holding down a job when you’re silently suffering can be hard, but there are laws protecting you.

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Should I tell my employer about my mental health issue?

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Should I tell my employer I’ve got a mental illness?

Before you apply:

Look to see if a company you’re interested in has a ‘two ticks’ symbol; this shows they’re committed to employing people with disabilities and mental health problems.

At application stage:

It’s illegal for employers to ask you about your mental health until after a job offer is made, so there’s no need to at this stage. You can choose to disclose your condition if you want, and legally a company cannot let this influence their decision. However, if it did sway them against hiring you it would be difficult for you to prove this.

Once you’ve started working:

It’s entirely up to you whether you wish to tell them or not. Although, it would be much easier to deal with a mental hiccup if your employer’s already aware of your history.

Legally, people with mental health issues have the same protection as those with physical illnesses, so your company’s sickness policy will apply to you. Although, it’s likely you’ll need a GP to confirm that you have mental health problems.

If telling your line manager seems daunting, you can talk to the human resources (HR) department (if you have one). Or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and ACAS can also offer advice and support.

I’ve had to take time off work due to mental illness, can I be fired? Or not paid?

No. It’s illegal for your employer to not pay you, or fire you, if you’ve had to take time off. Make sure you read your company’s sickness policy, as what you’re entitled to differs from company to company.

Our article about sick pay  should explain more. And, if you feel you’ve been unfairly dismissed, read our article about that here.

Are employers put off by people with mental health issues?

In an ideal world, the answer to this would be ‘no’. But, as you’re probably aware already, attitudes towards mental health can still be pretty warped.

Don’t be disheartened, though. Good employers realise that a staff member who’s experienced mental illness such as depression can be an asset. They often have a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and can help and support other members of staff with similar problems.

Should I even try and work if I’m mentally ill?

Only you know what you’re capable of and it might be useful to discuss this further with your GP or counsellor, if you have one. However, most people find the structure of a working day and the fact that they’re contributing something can be helpful.

If you’re open with your employer about your issues, they could take steps to make working life easier for you. Small tweaks, like staggering deadlines, flexitime, and letting you work the odd day from home can make a huge difference.

Next Steps

  • The Citizens Advice Bureau has a great Advice4Me page, which explains legal rights specifically for under-25s.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Bourne

Updated on 07-Aug-2014

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