Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health in the Workplace

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Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers

Mental health is a significant concern in the workplace, affecting a considerable portion of employees within the UK. With the rising cost of living crisis, approximately 48% of individuals have experienced negative impacts on their mental health, increasing to 73% for those with existing mental health issues.

Employers have both moral and legal obligations to support employees suffering from mental health conditions. Including understanding reasonable adjustments for mental health in the workplace.

Understanding Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace

Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health refers to the changes employers make to eliminate or reduce disadvantages related to employees’ disabilities, including mental health conditions. These adjustments are essential for supporting employees who might find it challenging to discuss or even conceal their mental health conditions, especially under pressure.

Remember, employers have a legal obligation to manage stress levels in the workplace.  Check out our resource on managing stress in the workplace.

According to the Equality Act of 2010, employers are legally obligated to implement reasonable adjustments for mental health to accommodate:

  • Employees
  • Contractors and self-employed individuals engaged for personal work execution
  • Job applicants

The obligation for employers to implement reasonable adjustments for mental health is applicable under the following circumstances:

  • When employers are aware, or are reasonably expected to be aware, that an individual is disabled.
  • When a disabled employee or job candidate requests adjustments
  • When a disabled individual encounters challenges in performing any job component
  • When an individual’s record of absence, sickness, or delayed return to work is associated with, or attributable to, their disability

Reviewing and implementing Mental Health Policies

Employers should review existing absence and reasonable adjustment policies to ensure they accommodate employees with mental health problems effectively. Policies should be clear, accessible, flexible, and implemented consistently.

Policies should allow for a personalised approach to different employees, considering the dynamic nature of mental health conditions. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Employers should also provide training and support for both managers and employees ensuring a consistent approach is implemented.

Do you have a mental health-specific policy in employee handbooks? Download your free mental health policy template.

Examples of Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health

  • Changing roles and responsibilities may include reducing or removing stressful aspects of a job, like customer-facing work. Could you consider alternative work?
  • Reviewing working relationships and having an agreement on preferred communication methods to reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Changing the working environment may involve facilitating work-from-home options, providing reserved parking, or making other physical adjustments to reduce stress and support mental health management.
  • Policy changes/flexibility for employees suffering from mental health by being flexible with absence trigger points and providing additional support like training or coaching. Have a good understanding of the company’s sickness absence management procedure.

Implementing reasonable adjustments for mental health in the workplace is not solely the responsibility of HR. It requires collaboration between employers and employees to meet everyone’s needs.

Employers should equip managers with the necessary tools to support their staff and recognise signs of mental health struggles. Regular reviews and adjustments to policies and support mechanisms are crucial to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment.

Other Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health to consider;

Flexible Working Hours:

Allowing employees to start and finish work at different times to accommodate therapy or counselling appointments, or to avoid rush hour if commuting causes stress.

Part-Time Working: Offering reduced hours or part-time working schedules for employees who struggle to manage full-time hours due to their mental health.

Job Sharing: Enabling two employees to share the responsibilities and duties of one full-time position, which may provide each individual with more flexibility. This may reduce stress levels involved with the role.

Phased Return to Work: After a period of absence due to mental health, employees might benefit from a gradual return to their regular working hours and responsibilities.

Quiet Spaces: Providing quiet, private spaces where employees can take breaks and have time away from their desks can be crucial for those who need to manage stress and anxiety during the workday.

Mental Health First Aid: Training selected staff members to identify and understand the symptoms of mental health conditions which can foster a supportive environment.

Access to Counselling Services: Offering complimentary or subsidised counselling services provides employees with professional support for managing their mental health.

Mindfulness and Well-being Programs: Implementing programmes that promote relaxation, stress reduction, and mental well-being can be beneficial for all employees.

Technology Adjustments: Providing software or tools that assist in reducing stress or making the workload more manageable, like project management tools or mindfulness apps.

Clear Anti-Stigma Policy: Developing and enforcing policies that prevent discrimination and stigma related to mental health fosters an inclusive workplace culture.

Temporary Adjustments

Short-Term Needs:

Temporary adjustments are often made to accommodate employees dealing with short-term or episodic mental health challenges. These might include stress, anxiety, or depression due to specific life events or circumstances.

Recovery Period:

After a mental health-related absence, temporary adjustments can support an employee’s phased return to work, helping them gradually reintegrate into their regular duties and hours.

Trial Period:

Employers might implement temporary adjustments as a trial to assess their effectiveness before deciding whether to make them permanent.

Examples of Temporary Adjustments:

  • Flexible working hours or part-time schedules for a set period.
  • Short-term provision of additional support or resources.
  • Temporary reassignment or redistribution of specific tasks or responsibilities.

Permanent Adjustments

Long-Term Conditions: For employees with chronic or long-term mental health conditions, permanent adjustments may be necessary to support their ongoing well-being and ability to work effectively.

Stable Support: Permanent adjustments provide consistency and stability, helping employees manage their mental health confidently and effectively over time.

Legal Compliance: Employers may be legally required to make permanent adjustments for employees with long-term or recurring mental health conditions classified as disabilities.

Examples of Permanent Adjustments:

  • Permanent change in working hours or work location (e.g., remote working).
  • Long-term modification of job role or responsibilities.
  • Ongoing access to support services, like counselling or occupational health.

Whether temporary or permanent, reasonable adjustments should be tailored to meet the individual needs of each employee. Employers should communicate with employees to understand their requirements, review the effectiveness of adjustments, and make necessary changes over time.

The goal is to create an inclusive and supportive work environment where all employees, regardless of their mental health status, can thrive and succeed.

How are adjustments communicated to employees?

Communicating reasonable adjustments to employees should be done with sensitivity, confidentiality, and clarity. Here’s a general guideline on how adjustments can be communicated:

1. Private Discussion:

Communication should start with a private and confidential conversation between the employee and their manager or HR representative. Ensure the discussion takes place in a comfortable and private setting where the employee feels safe to express their needs and concerns.

2. Active Listening:

Actively listen to the employee’s needs and concerns without making judgments. Creating a better understanding of the situation. Managers should encourage the employee to share their thoughts on what adjustments might be helpful for them.

3. Collaborative Planning:

Collaboratively explore and discuss potential reasonable adjustments, allowing the employee to put forward their ideas. Provide feedback on the employee’s suggestions and offer additional recommendations if necessary, depending on if the business can accommodate the adjustment.

4. Documentation:

Once adjustments are agreed upon, document them in a written agreement. The document should clearly outline the adjustments, expectations, and any review dates.

5. Confidentiality:

Maintain the confidentiality of the employee’s health information and the details of the adjustments. Sharing of an employee’s health information may be outlined as a breach of GDPR and sharing information must only be with those who need to know how to implement the adjustments.

6. Implementation:

Inform relevant team members or departments about the adjustments without disclosing sensitive health information. Offer support and resources to help the employee and their colleagues understand and adapt to the adjustments.

7. Review and Feedback:

Schedule regular check-ins with the employee to discuss the effectiveness of the adjustments and address any issues. Encourage the employee and their manager to provide feedback on the adjustments and suggest any modifications if needed.

8. Training and Awareness:

Conduct training and awareness programs for staff to understand the importance of reasonable adjustments and how to support colleagues. Create an inclusive and supportive workplace culture where employees feel comfortable discussing and requesting adjustments.

Effective communication is crucial in successfully implementing reasonable adjustments for mental health in the workplace. It requires a careful, respectful, and collaborative approach to ensure that the employee feels supported and understood and that the adjustments meet their needs while maintaining their dignity and privacy.

Employer’s duty of care for Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health in the Workplace is inclusive, involving legal compliance, proactive support, confidentiality, and the creation of an inclusive and supportive work environment.

Employers should approach this responsibility with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to supporting the mental health and well-being of all employees.

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