Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which includes offering support to their employees with physical or mental health conditions, to enable them to perform at their best in the workplace. Duty of care means that you must do all your reasonably can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees.
This includes making sure that the working environment is safe, protecting staff from discrimination and carrying out risk assessments.
What is BPD?
Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a serious and complex condition that usually covers four areas. This comes across as:
- emotional instability or dysregulation (the employee finds it difficult to control their emotions)
- distorted patterns of thinking (criticism from a colleague may make the employee feel they are not valued, disliked or even worthless)
- impulsive behaviour (they may quickly change their goals, or likes and dislikes)
- difficult relationships with others (they may be very intense with colleagues they like, see behaviour as black and white with no in-between, or behave inconsistently with different employees)
However, employees with BPD can be very driven, commit to a project with all of their energy, and exceed expectations on good days. They can also be good at problem-solving, can be very creative and good at ‘thinking outside the box’.
We encourage all employers, and colleagues, to read through our What is BPD? pages.
Any kind of discrimination against an employee with mental health conditions is unacceptable. Complex conditions such as BPD may class as a disability, depending on the severity of the condition. Disability discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
It’s important as an employer to know the different types of discrimination that may occur at work:
- Direct discrimination – where an employee has been treated differently to other employees because of their condition.
- Discrimination arising from disability – where an employee has been treated differently to other employees because of something that is related to their condition rather than the condition itself.
- Indirect discrimination – this is where a set of rules or criteria that apply equally to all employees puts someone with a disability at a distinct disadvantage.
- Harassment – where someone is persecuted because of their condition.
- Victimisation – the mistreatment of an employee because they made a complaint about harassment or discrimination in the workplace
- Failing to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments – under the Equality Act 2010, as an employer you are required to make any reasonable adjustments in the workplace to alleviate or remove any disadvantage suffered by a disabled worker when compared to a non-disabled worker. This includes anyone suffering from a long-term mental health condition.
Before any dismissal of an employee who is no longer able to carry out their job due to their mental health issues, you must ensure that you have first explored all possible options of removing disadvantages that the employee may be experiencing because of their condition, and that all reasonable adjustments have been carried out.
Disabled employees are afford special legal protection under the Equality Act 2010, and employers have a responsibility to their employees – dismissal should only every be a last resort.
As mentioned above, employers have a responsibility to make any reasonable adjustments in the workplace to support employees with mental health conditions. What is considered reasonable depends on many factors:
- the individual circumstances of the situation and employee
- what is likely to be effective in helping the employee
- the cost involved in making these adjustments
- how practical it is to implement these changes
It may be a good starting to point to arrange an occupational health assessment to help identify ways in which the employee can be supported.
It’s important to remember that reasonable adjustments made for one employee may not be suitable for another – one employee may need weekly time off for therapy, another may need a quiet working space. Adjustments should be tailored to the situation and employee, and your approach to each situation should be flexible.
Some examples of reasonable adjustments are:
- a phased return to work after absence
- a change to the employees working arrangements, such as reduced hours or workload
- moving the employee to a better-suited role
Making simple changes can, in many cases, alleviate work stress, increase productivity, reduce absence, and create a safe and supportive workplace for the employee.
Creating a Supportive Environment
Having BPD doesn’t mean that a person lacks the skills or ability to do their job, but it does mean that they may need support from time to time. Here are some tips to creating a supportive environment.
- If you feel the employee is able to talk about things, having an open and clear discussion can allow them to avoid stressful situations and triggers by discussing these potential pitfalls before they occur.
- Train your staff on general mental health and wellbeing, to enable them to support any employees who are struggling. Your staff may be benefit from taking part in our free online Peer Support Training.
- Offer your employees personal time to attend appointments relating to their BPD, or to take personal days when they need it most. Being able to attend doctor or therapist appointments without using holidays or worrying about job security is fundamental to their health and wellbeing. If your employee is having a difficult day, they are not going to perform to the best of their abilities. Allowing them to take time when needed can be vital in their wellbeing.
- Have staff who are trained in Mental Health First Aid. No matter what your organisation does, having specialist training on supporting employees can be invaluable. You can find out more about Mental Health First Aid at the MHFA England website.
Ultimately, your employee is still the same employee you hired, they are just as capable of doing their job as before, you just need to offer them the support needed to help them thrive in the workplace.
Promoting Positive Mental Health at Work
Generally speaking, employment has a positive effect on people’s mental health – it can boost their confidence, grow their skills, increase their self-worth, and allow them opportunities to people and make friends.
There are a variety of things in the workplace that can have a negative effect on employees – poor work/life balance, long hours, lack of managerial support, bullying or harassment. And events outside the workplace, such as bereavement, domestic violence of financial problems, that can add to an employees stress.
When employees are suffering with poor mental health, this can affect their attendance, performance at work, workplace morale, and can also affect other employees wellbeing.
Supporting your staff, and promoting positive mental health, can have a positive effect on your employees and your organisation. Here are our top tips for promoting positive mental health at work:
- Lead by example – look after your own mental wellbeing, be open and honest about mental health, encourage conversations
- Pay attention to your staff – keep an eye on dips in productivity and attendance, or low moods, among your employees
- Promote a good work life balance – reduce overtime where possible, allow staff to take time off for family reasons, offer flexible working where possible.
- Let your staff know where they can go for further support – have a mental health first aider on staff, have a list of mental health resources on the notice board or intranet, ask local organisations for information you can pass on to your employees
- Encourage mindfulness, good sleep and healthy eating – physical health has an effect on mental health and vice versa
- Promote fitness – arrange a discount on local gyms or fitness classes, arrange a lunchtime walking group, have lunchtime boot camps in the car park.
Managing absence caused by BPD
If someone needs to take time off because of a mental health issue, it’s important to be supportive and take it seriously. During the absence, you should keep in touch with the employee, and be familiar with your organisations absence policies. You may have an occupational health scheme or an employee assistance program.
The time the employee needs to take off may vary due to the person affected and how severe the mental health issue is. Your employee needs to know that you are there to support them, to reduce the stress of worrying about their job.
If they are off for more than 7 days, the employee should provide you with ‘fit notes’, a written statement from their GP which gives their medical opinion on a person’s fitness for work. The GP may suggest that the employee is not fit for any work, or is fit to do certain elements of their job.
When the employee is ready to come back to work, you should carefully consider the fit notes the GP has provided, to ensure a smooth return to work with minimal stress. Reasonable adjustments may need to be put in place, such as a phased return to work or flexible working.
The key to managing absence is to ensure that the employee knows they are being supported by their employer, and that their is no undue stress or pressure to come back to work before they are capable.
Gov.uk – Equality Act 2010
The Mind website has some excellent examples of different types of discrimination.
Public Health Agency NI: Promoting positive mental health at work
ACAS – Absense from work
Mental Health Foundation – How to Support Mental Health at Work