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Mental health and the law

You have legal responsibilities to protect your workers' mental health, through stress risk assessments, and to support people with mental health conditions.

Legal responsibilities

As an employer, you have legal duties around mental health and wellbeing under two Acts of Parliament.

  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • Equality Act 2010  

Together the responsibilities under these two Acts mean you must take action to protect mental health at work and support people with mental health conditions. 

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 

This provides the legal framework for an employer to prevent work-related stress and pre-existing mental health conditions being made worse by work.

View the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 View HSE guidance on work-related stress and how to manage it

Risk assessments

Part of your legal duty is to carry out a risk assessment, making sure you consider risks to people’s mental health as well as their physical health, and to act on this assessment.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has detailed information on how to carry out a risk assessment.

The Equality Act 2010 

The Equality act focuses specifically on employees whose conditions meet the given definition of disability. It requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for people with relevant mental health conditions.  

View Equality Act 2010 guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The definition of disability is not always clear cut when it comes to mental health. The UK Government website has guidance on when a mental health issues are classed as a disability.

The Equality Act 2010 also works to prevent discrimination, as this can lead to certain groups being more affected by mental health issues.

Ethical responsibilities

You also have a moral responsibility as an employer towards anyone who does paid or unpaid work for you. 

View guidance on developing a mental health policy

Scottish Government | Riaghaltas na h-Alba | gov.scot