Rights and responsibilities

It’s important for managers, employers and employees to be aware of their rights and responsibilities.
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It’s unlawful for employers to discriminate against a person on the grounds of disability alone, by not offering employment, not promoting them, providing less favourable conditions of employment or dismissing them from their job.
The most common adjustments needed for employees with a mental illness include providing relevant orientation and training to managers and co-workers; having a plan in place should someone become unwell; modifying the work environment to allow on-site support; allowing more flexible work schedules; restructuring job tasks and improving workplace attitudes through education.

Be aware

  • There are many benefits for employers in having an inclusive and diverse workplace (e.g. improves workplace culture and the organisation’s reputation, has a ‘feel good’ effect on employees and customers, and leads to greater employee loyalty and commitment). As someone with experience of mental illness, you can add value through your unique insights relating to mental health.
  • Employment has a raft of positive effects that make it good for your health and sense of self: social inclusion, financial independence, greater stability and structure, and a sense of belonging and purpose.
  • People with experience of mental illness can face stigma and discrimination in obtaining, maintaining and returning to work, but good employers and workplaces do exist.
  • You don’t have to be 100 per cent fit and healthy to be a good employee – most people aren’t.
  • The Human Rights Act 1993 creates an obligation for employers to take reasonable measures to meet their employees’ needs in relation to a disability. Otherwise known as workplace accommodations, these are typically changes that are made to the work environment or the way things are usually done.
  • It is unlawful to be treated differently in employment because of your experience of mental illness (this includes through job advertisements, job interviews, job offers, working conditions and pay, and being forced to retire or leave, or being fired).
  • Legally, if the employer asks questions about disability or health issues that could impact on the job, you are under an obligation to answer these truthfully, or risk dismissal at a later point.
  • Workplace accommodations that other people with experience of mental illness have found helpful include:
    - flexible hours, in terms of how much and when you work
    - flexibility in where you work (e.g. the option of working from home)
    - flexibility around sick and annual leave (e.g. the option of additional paid or unpaid leave)
    - flexibility around attending appointments (e.g. being able to attend appointments in work-time)
    - an on-the-job coach or mentor
    - the ability to continue working even when not feeling 100 per cent
    - not having to manage people.

People without experience of mental illness often have similar arrangements to accommodate other aspects of their lives (e.g. children).

The legal framework