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Mental Health – a guide to Tailored Adjustments

Mental Health is often incorrectly referred to as a “hidden” disability although it’s important to recognise that where a condition affects day to day activities and is predicted to last longer than 12 months this can trigger protections under the legal definitions of the Equality Act 2010 including a right to request reasonable adjustments. This also covers those receiving treatment for a mental health condition under the “deduced affect” definition.

We all have Mental Health and in the workplace during times of rapid change can find ourselves somewhere on the pressure- stress- mental health spectrum. The trigger point from movement to a more severe condition such as Depression or Personality Disorders can be caused by a myriad of factors including influences outside of work and is very much an individual experience.

One in four of us will experience a mental health issue our lifetime. While not all will develop a severe condition, it’s impossible to predict who in the workplace will be affected and this therefore increases the importance of mental health awareness training and an open and honest dialogue on the subject. The Branch is advocating a cross stakeholder approach to creating a culture that encourages understanding and compassion for those affected by these conditions.

As this is very much an individual experience it’s important to put the person at the centre of the discussion on possible workplace adjustments. While GP, Occupational Health and Human Resource advisers all have a role here, ultimately it requires agreement and commitment of all parties to be effective and it’s important at set intervals to review adjustments in place and if they remain fit for purpose.

The Tailored Adjustment plan is a useful tool for recording these agreements and is the living document that provides base line information on adjustments that are required to address an individual’s needs. This can be a valuable asset for future discussions or planning staff support needs if further changes occur such as relocation. There are a number of good practice elements for a Tailored Adjustment Plan to work including:

  • An open and honest dialogue on how their mental health condition impacts in the Workplace and what adjustments might help
  • Focus on what the person can do – not what they can’t
  • Take into account Professional Advice
  • Flexibility to cover mental health condition that can be episodic
  • Identify a mentor or buddy if possible to help in time of crisis
  • Contingency to help local staff accommodate agreed changes – awareness training , make the link clear and transparent to existing policies and procedures ( Equalities, Flexible Working, Health & Safety etc)

Each person’s experience and coping mechanisms for a condition are unique. So what might be an effective workplace change for one person may not be as beneficial for another. Adjustments need to be tailored to the individual although experiences in other workplaces suggest the following checklist may give some useful starting ideas:

Job Modifications

  • Adjust Duties and Responsibilities to prevent trigger points
  • Re- assign elements of current duties within the team – take on some tasks and drop others
  • Alter supervision arrangements
  • Redeployment to a more suitable role

Hours& Breaks

  • Change Shift schedules to accommodate medication and recovery
  • Reduce Hours
  • Allowing workers to use paid or unpaid leave for appointments related to their health condition
  • Alter break times
  • Explore the option of home working

Environmental Adjustments

  • Create a safe personal space to share health concerns
  • Seating arrangements within offices
  • Adjust signage used within the office and methods of sharing work instructions
  • A trusted co-worker or personnel staff member given the role of buddy or job coach
  • Link to in-house resources such as Counselling, Therapeutic support or CBT
  • Reduce noise and distractions through room divers or soundproofing
  • Access to Work Funding

Policy supports and Levers

  • Tailored Adjustment Policy
  • Equalities Policy covering paid leave during Hospitalisation or treatment linked to the condition
  • Flexible Working
  • Option of a Phased Return to Work
  • Health & Safety Duty of Care
  • Disability Leave

Management & Supervision Methods

  • Modify the way instructions and feedback are given
  • Extra Training, Mentoring and Support
  • Performance deadlines and task completion timescales adjusted to reflect agreed adjustments
  • Change of Supervisor

Useful Information Sources