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.


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 (external site).

The Equality Act 2010  

This 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. 

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

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

Understanding the law

ACAS provide advice for employers on making reasonable adjustments for mental health under the Equality Act 2010.


Ethical responsibilities 

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

Scottish Government | Riaghaltas na h-Alba |