How to Make Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health

Posted: 4th September 2023

According to the Health and Safety Executive, one in four people will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. In light of this, a CIPD survey found that 81% of workplaces have started to focus more on mental health in the workplace. To support this, Acas has published new guidance on making reasonable adjustments for those suffering from poor mental health at work.

Adjustments can be made to someone’s work environment, daily tasks, work schedule or in some cases, just providing extra support can be enough. No one should feel like they’re disadvantaged at work because of their mental health. Therefore, it is an employer’s duty to make sure everyone can do their role effectively and that everyone’s individual reasonable needs are met.

What Do Reasonable Adjustments for Mental Health Look Like?

You’ve probably heard about reasonable adjustments for disability in the workplace by making changes to a person’s work environment so that they can do their job effectively. Mental health covers our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing which can affect the ability to do our job as much as our physical health can.

Mental health can affect different people in different ways so it is difficult to have a one-size fits all approach for everyone. This is why the new Acas guidance has been created because it is important for employers to support employees by making reasonable adjustments to fit their specific needs.

Even if two people suffer from anxiety for instance it may be that in order for them to do their job well they both need different adjustments. One might benefit from flexible working and the other may need to be given a more manageable workload. Acas recognises that job roles are also different too so whilst some adjustments may work for one role, they may not be suitable for another. As such, employers will need to apply the guidance and adapt it to each individual circumstance by gaining advice from employment law experts and working with the employee to find out how best to meet their needs.

For example, in the case of Hurle v London Fire Commissioner, an employee was diagnosed with depression and asked his employer if he could be transferred to another local work station as the long commute was impacting his mental health. Occupational Health agreed that a transfer would be highly beneficial. However, the employer refused this request as it was against company policy to transfer workers. The organisation was found to be discriminating against the employee for failing to make reasonable adjustments.

In another case, Lamb v The Garrard Academy, a teacher who was suffering from PTSD asked to work in a classroom that had natural light and sufficient ventilation. Her request was refused and it was found that the employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments.

Other reasonable adjustments for mental health could include changing an employee’s tasks by giving them more time to complete them or decreasing their workload. It could also include changing their duties to fit their needs such as giving them less responsibility, offering them other work or making adjustments so that they can do their role better. For instance, if their condition causes severe sleep problems their work time may be adjusted so that they start later or meetings could be scheduled until the afternoon time.

Making reasonable adjustments for mental health is in the best interests of everyone, it helps employees become more productive and able to do their role better. It also creates a more supportive and collaborative work environment.