Half of people with mental health problems don’t know their conditions could legally be classed as a disability, a survey by mental health charity Mind has revealed.
The charity spoke with 1,700 people with mental health problems and found that 44% could be missing out on certain rights and protections at work because of uncertainty around the Equality Act 2010.
Jaabir Ramlugon has borderline personality disorder (BPD) and has previously experienced psychosis and suicidal thoughts. In 2015, he was working as a Technical Support Engineer in computing for an unsupportive employer in the city and became extremely unwell. He said:
‘At the time I didn’t know that my mental health problems would be covered by the Equality Act 2010. And although I told my employer about my mental health problems, they decided it was grounds to dismiss me for being ill after an occupational health assessment deemed me unfit for work for at least a few months.
‘My employer told me they had made reasonable adjustments, which simply was not true.
‘The toxic nature of the workplace combined with the stressful type of work led me to become very unwell. Until I was dismissed, I took time off sick and the whole time I was off, I didn’t hear from my employer, or any of my colleagues, once.
‘Things got so bad that I even attempted to take my own life. I ended up leaving the role which was the best decision I could have made, but it shouldn’t have to be like that.’
The Equality Act 2010, which protects disabled employees from discrimination at work and gives them the right to reasonable adjustments if they need them, states that a mental health problem qualifies as a disability if it has:
However, when given the definition, one in three people surveyed either felt that their mental health problem did not fit the definition or weren’t sure if it did.
Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind, is calling on the next government to commit to clarifying the definition of a disability under the Act. She said:
‘There is a huge gap in awareness among those of us with mental health problems that we could be covered by the Equality Act 2010. Ahead of the general election, we’re calling on the incoming government to make sure they address this issue.
‘This next government must commit to clarifying the definition of a disability under the Act to make sure staff with mental health problems have better access to rights and protections in work. This will help to protect them from discrimination in the first place, and to challenge their workplace if they are discriminated against on the grounds of a health condition, enable people to challenge this.
‘While mental health problems can impact on your day-to-day life and work, it’s important to remember that – with the right support – those of us with mental health problems can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace.’
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