FRIDAY FAQS – Can an employer ask about my mental health when applying for a new job?

Thanks to awareness days like Wednesday’s World Mental Health Day, the conversation surrounding mental health is getting louder. The stigma attached to talking about our mental health in the same way that we do for our physical health is being lifted and with that there is a growing acceptance that it’s okay not to be okay and to seek support.

The workplace is undeniably an environment that for many people can cause stress and anxiety. If you have a mental health issue then being in a pressured working environment, that may not be supportive of your mental health, can cause further damage to your health and overall well-being.

It’s therefore the role of employers to ensure they have fair practices in place with regards to their approach for identifying and supporting their teams with mental health issues, just as they do for physical health.

As an employee you should expect to be supported by your employer and provided with the necessary support for a mental health issue.

However, is it a concern for those seeking new employment that if they have an existing mental health issue, it may impact upon their likelihood of getting a job?

We want to help debunk some of these crucial questions and shed light on an area of HR that is vital for a happy and productive workplace.

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1. Can I be asked about my mental health issue when I apply for a job? 

In short, no. It’s unlawful for an employer to ask a candidate if they have a history mental health issues during the application process.

If you are asked about your mental health, you are not obliged to answer this, however, if you do choose to disclose this information it is recommended that you do so honestly.

Asking candidates health questions before a job offer is made is unlawful and can be reported to the Equality Advice and Support Service.

If you are asked about your mental health during the application process and then don’t receive an offer, you may want to challenge this as it can be classed as discrimination on the grounds of disability.

2. Are there situations when an employer can ask about my mental health before making a job offer?

There are a few situations when an employer may need to ask about your health before a job offer is made, these can include:

  • To find out if you can take an assessment for a job.
  • To find out if you need reasonable adjustments to the application process.
  • To find out whether you will be able to do the requirements of the job, whilst they also consider any reasonable adjustments that may need to be made.
  • To find out if applications are coming from a diverse group of people.
  • To establish if you have the particular disability required for the job.
  • To assess you for national security purposes.

For example, a lawful question about your health and whether this affects your ability to do the job would be; if you were applying for a job erecting scaffolding and the employer asked questions at the application stage regarding disability, health and whether the applicant has a fear of heights.

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3. What questions can I be asked about my mental health once I’ve been offered a job?

Once you receive a job offer then your new employer is lawfully able to ask you questions about your health.

If your new employer asks questions about your mental health and subsequently becomes concerned due to a mental health issue you may not be able to carry out your job, then it is the employer’s responsibility to seek further advice from your doctor or occupational health.

Should your new employer ask a question about your mental health and then withdraw the job offer without first consulting advice or conducting a further assessment or investigation, then this may be seen direct discrimination and therefore unlawful.

Mental Health is a really important HR issue in the workplace and If you need any help or advice on how to approach it, get in touch:+44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

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World Mental Health Day 10th Oct 2018

Today is World Mental Health Day, aimed at raising awareness and educating people on a subject that has been too stigmatised for too long.  It’s an opportunity for us all to reflect on our own mental health and wellbeing and those around us. Unfortunately, mental ill health isn’t something that affects people for just one day a year, for some it really is something that affects them long term.

When we talk about Mental Health, what do we mean? Well in short it’s our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing – fundamentally the part of us that affects how we think, feel and act in certain situations. It determines how we handle stress, the choices we make and more importantly how we relate to others.

Mental illness can range from feeling a little down to debilitating anxiety and less commonly the severe conditions bi-polar or schizophrenia, but even feeling down can affect us and the people around us.  Most people will feel some level of stress or anxiety as our daily life throws different pressures and expectations at us, so never assume someone is always happy and never struggles with mental ill health as this will rarely be true.

The statistics show that 1 in 4 will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives and it is now a real issue that needs to be addressed and not swept under the carpet. Luckily awareness is on the increase and some big charities and household names are at the forefront of ensuring that we are all able to talk about our issues openly and promoting positive mental health.

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There are steps we can all put in place from employers and business owner to colleagues and peers to promote positive mental wellbeing in the workplace.  Below are just a few things that should be in place and we would encourage all employers and their employees to get involved, not just to help promote positive mental health in the workplace, but support those already suffering with mental ill health.

Employers

1. Take time to understand the impact to your business.

2. Ensure your managers are informed and aware, include training if necessary, but most importantly ensure they are open to having conversations with their employees.

3. Openly show that you are committed to positive mental health.

4. Deal with the issues that could be causing your workforce stress and anxiety.

5. Reduce negativity, tell people it’s ok to talk and reinforce that they won’t be punished as a result.

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Managers

1. Ensure you know how to handle a potentially difficult conversation effectively and don’t be afraid to ask for help if not.

2. Promote a positive work-life balance in your teams, and yourself too!

3. Don’t think you’re the expert because you’re a manager, really understand mental health and the issues associated with it.

4. Build a good relationship with your team – this is probably the most important; your employees need to feel like they can come to you.

Employees

1. What causes you anxiety? Do you really know what your stress triggers are? Think about it, and how you manage it in the workplace, or at home.

2. Look after your wellbeing, do things that you know make you feel positive and happy.

3. Take notice of your peers and support them.

4. Lastly but most importantly talk! Don’t keep things to yourself, if you are struggling let your manager know and then you can work together.

FACT: Stress is the major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.

Let’s work together to change this and stop people suffering in silence.

If you need any help or advice on how to approach Mental Health in your workplace, get in touch:+44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

The HR BLOG - hr revolution - outsourced hr