How to manage Anxiety and Depression in the Workplace

Mental ill health affects approximately one in four people in the UK, for employers this means you are likely to need to manage an employee experiencing mental ill health in your workplace. Whilst mental ill health can take many forms and can affect people differently, depression and anxiety are increasingly common areas of concern for employers. So, here’s three things you need to know.



Depression and anxiety can be a disability

This means you will need to be careful when managing an employee in this situation to avoid discriminating against them whether directly, indirectly or by treating them unfavourably in consequence of something arising from their disability (such as a sickness absence).

Whether an employee who is experiencing mental ill health, such as anxiety or depression, will meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act will depend on the employee’s individual case. However, it’s important for employers to be cautious so as not to get caught out – remember there is no limit on the amount an employee can be awarded for a successful discrimination claim.

If you are dealing with a situation involving an employee who is experiencing mental ill health, you should contact us for advice.

You may need to make reasonable adjustments

Employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments if an employee is disabled and is put at a disadvantage because of:

  • a provision, criteria or practice in your organisation
  • the absence of an auxiliary aid or
  • a physical feature of the premises.

What adjustments, if any, are required will depend on the employee’s particular circumstances. An employer in this case was found to have failed to make reasonable adjustments for an employee who had anxiety by not rescheduling a disciplinary hearing for a third time by phone.

A common area of frustration for employers is when an employee who is absent due to mental ill health doesn’t follow the company absence reporting procedure. Whilst this situation can cause difficulties for employers, it’s important to bear in mind that disciplinary action won’t necessarily be appropriate in such circumstances and that reasonable adjustments may need to be considered. If you find yourself dealing with this situation you should contact us for specific advice on the facts of your case.

Depression and anxiety may impact an employee’s performance, conduct or attendance

For some employees, mental ill health may affect them in the workplace. Where this occurs, it’s important to manage the situation appropriately and sensitively.  In many cases, medical advice will be needed to ascertain how the employee is specifically impacted and whether reasonable adjustments may be required (for example this could be to the employee’s role, targets or procedures). This will help to ensure that any steps taken to manage the employee are the right ones.

A challenging issue for employers is what to do if during a disciplinary process an employee raises that they have a mental health (or other medical condition) that impacted their conduct. This situation will need to be handled with care and will often require additional investigation (which again is likely to include seeking medical advice) before proceeding further.  Remember, it will be important to ensure that any disciplinary outcome is appropriate in the circumstances –  so it is vital to ensure you have all the facts.

If you are dealing with this situation, we are here to provide advice and support so please contact us.


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