older white gentleman with a black jersey and white shirt stands in front of a computer that states - we no longer need your services

Since mental health conditions impact 1 in 5 people, many businesses will likely have employees living with mental health illnesses. There are now various laws in place that provide guidelines on what actions employers need to take when it comes to terminating an employee with mental health issues. In the UK, employees are protected by the law to prevent their dismissal because of mental health issues.

Since terminating an employee with mental health issues is a complex problem both from a moral and legal standpoint, this article will offer you some useful things to know when confronted with this situation.

Approaching mental health issues at work

As an employer, you could easily be unsure of how to handle mental health issues in the workplace. On one hand, you may lack the mental health background to fully understand how to tackle problems in this area. On the other hand, you have a legal duty to ensure that your employees are protected from harm at work. Moreover, you also have organisational goals that you want them to meet as part of their duties.

The best way to approach mental health issues at work is to understand that they can happen to anyone. The same way anyone could get in an accident that occurs outside their control, so can mental health deteriorate without someone’s will. People are vulnerable to a lot of stressors these days, which can make or break them. Keep in mind that before you consider any legal or HR matters when it comes to terminating an employee with mental health issues, you are first dealing with a vulnerable human being who needs your support during a difficult time in their life.

Some things that can impact an employee’s mental health are:

  • Life changes – divorce, moving house, change in family dynamics
  • Chronic and acute illness
  • Death of a loved one
  • Past traumas

Before you consider terminating an employee with mental health issues, see if the problem can be ameliorated with mental health support. Therapy is an excellent tool for treating mental illness, and employees can greatly benefit from it. Thanks to digital mental health providers like SupportRoom, employees can now access therapy at any time and from anywhere. Bringing online mental health support into your workplace can be one of the greatest forms of care you can show your employees.

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When can you fire someone for mental health issues?

As stated above, terminating an employee with mental health issues in the UK is against the law because it is considered a form of discrimination. However, there are situations in which employers are allowed to dismiss someone because of the following reasons:

  • They’re unable to perform their job properly
  • Their chronic illness makes it difficult for them to sustain effort in the job in the long term

To avoid reaching this situation, employers must take the right steps to help employees recover as soon as they detect the first signs of illness. This can include:

  • Giving staff reasonable time to focus on recovering their mental wellbeing
  • Managing their workload and ensuring it allows optimal time for recovery
  • Looking for ways to support staff while they’re at work
  • Offering resources that could help the employee feel more in control of their job, such as training, work relations, the possibility to delegate tasks, etc.

Ways to avoid dismissal

Dismissing someone because of their mental health problems should always be the last resort. Until you get there, make sure that you have tried the following approaches:

  • Provided a training line for managers to ensure that they are checking in with employees regarding health and mental health
  • Give access to well-being surveys – use them to take the well-being pulse of your workforce by asking simple questions such as “how happy are you in your role?” Platforms like Heartbeat Insights can help you create personalised surveys to improve employee engagement and performance within your organisation.
  • Mental health first aiders – this type, of course, can teach your staff important tips on supporting each other’s wellbeing at work.

Dismissal procedures for mental illness

  1. A fair dismissal process of an employee with mental health issues involves a thorough investigation into the impact of an employee’s ability to perform their duties at work. Employers should avoid making generalisations, but rather understand each case individually and the best ways to support the employee. After they understand the specific detail of the employee’s case, the employer should make the adjustments required for the vulnerable employees to recover. A clear record should be kept of all adjustments made.
  2. The employer must give the employee reasonable time to recover from their condition and conclude any course of treatment they might be put on. If the employee is absent due to mental health reasons, the employer should wait for them to provide a response or attend a meeting to discuss their decisions and relevant circumstances.
  3. Employers can consider terminating an employee with mental health issues as a last resort, after all the possible options to support the employee have been considered. One thing to keep in mind is that it is always best to seek legal advice before resorting to this solution, as there might be further implications for the employer in the future. As every single case is unique, general procedures for terminating an employee with mental health issues should be avoided. There might be details in the employee’s past or medical history that could make such a decision illegal. After all, the legal advice from an employment law specialist would help the employer determine the nature of the case, the type of business, and the resource available to deal with a dismissal.

Prevent dismissal with mental health solutions

Being in the position where you have to terminate an employee with mental health issues is every employer’s nightmare. Besides the moral dilemma that it causes in many people, this type of decision also has legal implications that must be taken into account.

Before you reach this last resort, ensure that, as an employer, you do everything in your power to support your employees. Many mental health conditions can be prevented with the right type of support at the right time. One thing you can offer your employees even starting from today is unlimited mental health support. At SupportRoom, we make this possible. We have a team of therapists, mentors and coaches that are always available on-demand to provide counselling and mental health interventions to those who need them. Instead of letting your workforce’s mental health deteriorate to the point where they can’t perform their job, help them monitor their mental health regularly. SupportRoom also offers a set of tools that make it easy to keep track of one’s mental health symptoms. This can be one of the most valuable gifts you can make to your workplace today.

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