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Discussing mental illness in the workplace

Illness at Work

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Is it appropriate to tell an employee (in particular a supervisor) who is dealing with depression that he can't discuss it in the workplace and should simply say he has to miss work due to "health issues"? Other employees/supervisors can discuss their illnesses if they are comfortable sharing. An employee/supervisor with diabetes can discuss the need for insulin or dialysis. An employee/supervisor with cancer can explain they'll be missing work due to intensive chemotherapy. An employee/supervisor going through relationship issues or child issues can explain that they have to leave early for therapy for themselves or their children.  So is it then acceptable to tell an employee who has shared that his depression has worsened and he's looking into a more intensive treatment program that he can't discuss this at work and that it undermines his position if he does, without also limiting other employees/supervisors? 


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By clive boorman
29th Apr 2016 08:26

Hi there, this is symptomatic of findings from orgs like CIPD who show that the lack of understanding around mental illness, by UK Employers, is poor. Personally, I would say that it's unacceptable but it depends on who is actually saying it in the example that you mention. Is it one manager's point of view or is it a view that's endorsed by the company? If the former, what is the company view on it - they may be inconsistent. Most importantly, what does the employee in question think of this? If they aren't happy, they should raise their concerns maybe in writing so there's a permanent record.
There are a number of other things to consider - what is the company's position on well-being; do they have a policy on it? If there is a company view of well-being is this limiting view consistent with it What are the company values - honesty, integrity - limiting a line manager's ability to be truly honest with their people would seem inconsistent if it is? Is there a chance that it may be considered to be indirect discrimination if limiting one group of people to have a freedom that others don't if the people in that category fall into a group with protected characteristics.

Ultimately, it's about supporting the individual on their road to managing the condition or being in a better place - if the 'company' position on this is not helping that process then it is unacceptable.

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