Discrimination at Work

Sometimes people who are living with mental health problems are treated worse than their colleagues because of their condition – this is discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 is a law that gives you the right to challenge discrimination.

The Equality Act is a piece of legislation to help protect people from discrimination. It has categories of protected groups, and to be protected under the Act you would need to prove your mental health condition is a disability.

What is classed as a disability?

People with severe symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder may find they fit the description of a disability, as seen on the UK Government website:

You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

  • ‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, eg it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed
  • ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more, eg a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection.

To help protect your rights, you should ensure that your employer is aware of your condition as soon as possible.

Can an employer ask about my mental health or disability before interview, or before offering me a role?

Employers should not ask about your mental health when you apply for a job, or before offering you a role – section 60 of the Equality Act makes it unlawful for a prospective employer to ask questions about health and disability before interview or offering a role post-interview. The purpose of this section is to ensure that this information isn’t used to reject your application without giving you the opportunity to show that you qualified to do the job. )There are exceptions to this, where such disclosures are needed).

Your prospective employer could ask if you have any disabilities and need any reasonable adjustments made at interview, or if you come to work for them. This may be things like time off for regular medical appointments, a later start time due to your medication or access to a quiet room when you are feeling anxious.

If you are asked about your mental health and do not feel it is relevant to the application process or role, you can report this to the Equality Advice and Support Service.

What are my employment rights?

There are standard employment rights that we all have, regardless of our mental health. These include rights related to:

  • hours worked
  • breaks
  • holidays/time off
  • getting paid
  • maternity and paternity leave
  • flexible working
  • agency or temporary workers

You can find out more about these rights on the Citizen’s Advice website.

What do I do if I feel I have experienced discrimination at work?

It is always best to resolve disputes informally if possible. You should be allowed to bring a colleague to the meeting. If you can’t resolve the issue informally, the next step would be to speak to your HR representative and ask for a meeting with them. If you feel the issue still has not been resolved, you can speak to Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) who can offer advice, mediation or help you to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.