A recent 2023 Global Workplace Wellbeing Survey reported that mental health is one of the biggest challenges impacting organizations today. More than half of human resources (HR) and benefits leaders surveyed (56%) felt that providing support for mental health concerns was the most important issue to address with their health and wellbeing program, followed by stress management (49%). There are laws that offer protections for employees with psychiatric disabilities.
Employees with Mental Health Conditions
Approximately 18% of workers in the U.S. report having a mental health condition in any given month, making psychiatric disability one of the most common types of disabilities covered under the ADA—and one that is protected even during recruiting. HR representatives must understand what the laws are and have a plan in place for current and future issues before they arise. Doing so can only help build a strong workforce that feels supported and in turn can be more productive.
On January 1, 2009, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) went into effect. The ADAAA made changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990’s original definition of “disability.” It broadened the scope of coverage and provided further protections for employees with a disability, including mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
Legal Protections for Employees Include:
- Job applicants – in most cases, not disclosing a mental health condition as a job applicant is a legally protected choice.
- Employees – unless they are requesting an accommodation, employees are not required to disclose a mental health condition.
- Federal contractors – individuals may be invited to self-disclose a mental health disability but only to track disability employment goals. In addition, any disclosures must be confidential and cannot be shared with managers or colleagues.
Moreover, in most instances, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for job applicants and employees with disabilities, including psychiatric disabilities. These could include more breaks, quieter work surroundings, the ability to work remotely, a flexible schedule for doctor/therapy appointments, and accommodations such as headphones to reduce stress through white noise or water bottles to assist with medications.
To understand your responsibility as an employer to your employees experiencing chronic or acute mental health issues, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.