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Commentary: Companies risk disability discrimination lawsuits if fail to address employees' mental health issues

Author: Charles Urquhart, Building (UK), Published on: 3 August 2018

"Legal: Facing up to mental health", 2 Aug 2018

...[M]anaging mental health properly brings benefits, including fewer absences for sickness, increased productivity and better staff morale...It is also vital that employers are aware of their legal obligations and liability with regard to mental health, as part of their duty of care to employees.  Without effective management of mental health, employers risk claims for disability discrimination, personal injury (negligence),...unfair dismissal, and harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997...[A] mental health condition is likely to be classed as a disability within the meaning given in the Equality Act 2010.  An employee is “disabled” if they have a physical or mental impairment” that has a “substantial and long-term” adverse effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.  As such, there are probably more employees who fall within the definition of “disability” than employers expect...[T]he Equality Act imposes a positive obligation on an employer to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an individual’s disability unless the employer did not know, or could not reasonably be expected to know, about that person’s disability.  Liability for disability discrimination...are all dependent on the employer’s actual or imputed knowledge of the disability, so there must be some evidence the employer knew of the disability.  That does not mean that the employer can wilfully ignore potential signs of a disability – an employer can be assumed to have knowledge and should take reasonable steps to find out...

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