Talking to your manager about struggling with personal matters or your mental health can be a very daunting conversation to have.


Many people will put off this conversation until it is too late and their health has slipped further or started to affect their day-to-day role at work. It is important to understand that your employer has certain responsibilities to protect their workforce. They may also be able to provide vital lifelines to help you through this time and ensure that you receive the additional support needed so that you can continue to work.


If your mental health condition amounts to a legal disability then you are protected by the Equality Act and your employer will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments where required.


Having that difficult conversation


Remember that everyone has mental health and anyone at any level can suffer from poor mental health, even if it may not be obvious to those around them. So don’t feel unable to talk to your line manager or boss as they should be understanding of your situation. You may find it easier to put it in writing rather than speaking to a manger face-to-face, or perhaps you would feel more comfortable confiding in your HR manager if you have one or a different senior manager at the company. Many people obtain a note from their GP to explain their situation which may also help you.


What do I have to tell my boss?


You don’t have to explain all the details of your mental health condition or the circumstances surrounding why you are suffering. However, it is useful for your employer to know the type of condition you have – anxiety, depression, OCD etc. and any difficulties you are experiencing with working arrangements because of this, so that they know how to assist you better. Understanding the reasons behind your condition may help your manager be more sympathetic – such as losing a family member or going through a divorce, but you do not need to disclose this information should you not want to.

Concerned about being discriminated against?


The Equality Act is in place to protect employees from being discriminated against in the workplace because of their disability, whether that is directly or indirectly, because of something arising as a consequence of their disability (e.g. related sick leave), because of harassment or because of a failure to make reasonable adjustments. A mental disability is a long-term (i.e. has lasted or is likely to last for 12 months or more) mental impairment which has a substantial (i.e. more than trivial) adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.


If you are concerned that you have been discriminated against (e.g. overlooked for a promotion, had responsibilities taken away from you, you have been dismissed etc.) because of your mental health condition or as a result of a perceived mental health condition or because of someone else’s mental health condition associated with you (e.g. a family member), then you should seek advice without delay as there are very short time limits that apply to discrimination claims.


What reasonable adjustments can be made for me?


The law isn’t entirely black and white when it comes to making reasonable adjustments for employees suffering from mental disabilities. The Equality Act states that employers should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ where a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, has a worse effect on some people than others because of their mental disability. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the type of business, the environment and the role that you have within the company.  For example, working hours could potentially be adjusted and allowances should be made to allow employees to attend counselling or occupational health appointments. Adjustments will depend on your own situation but you could prepare some ideas for your boss to consider that you think will help you.


Every year World Mental Health Day is recognised on the 10th October. The theme of this year’s campaign is mental health promotion and suicide prevention.


The campaign is an opportunity for mental health professionals and charities to celebrate the fantastic work they do, it is an opportunity for those affected to share their story and a chance to reinforce key messages and raise awareness of mental health.


If you are an employee for a company or organisation and need some guidance relating to mental health issues or discrimination in the workplace then please get in touch with our friendly Employment Law Specialists who can inform you of your rights and explain the next steps.


Call us on 01256 844888, email enquiries@lambbrooks.com or interact with our Live Chat service.




The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.