Is Depression a Disability?

George Heron

George Heron

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Phone 01952 566918

11 May 2016

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) have indicated that “1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year”, so mental health issues are clearly something that is likely to impact upon the vast majority of employers. The MHF has also found that major depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

The Equality Act defines a disability as being a “physical or mental impairment” which has asubstantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

It is therefore the case that depression can be (but is not necessarily) a disability. Accordingly, where depression does constitute a disability, there is an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate this condition. Any detriment faced by employees as a result of their disability could therefore potentially lead to a tribunal claim, regardless of length of service.

Extreme care should therefore be taken, both in terms of establishing whether an employee’s condition constitutes a disability and also when determining what adjustments should be made. It is worth noting that, even where an employer had no knowledge that the employee was disabled, they can still be liable for discrimination if they “could reasonably have been expected to know” that the employee was disabled.

At Alpha, we have a vast experience in providing bespoke, practical advice on HR and employment law issues. This includes advising clients on whether their employees are disabled and the actions that are required. We are proud of our commercial outlook and do not sit on the fence. If you would like to have Alpha on your side, please feel free to contact us.


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