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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Extend Equalities Act protections to episodic mental health conditions

Last updated: 10:35am 19 January 2019

…and extend Equalities Act protections against discrimination to mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.57

Our verdict

The Equality Act 2010 offers protection against discrimination on grounds of various protected characteristics, including mental health problems which constitute a disability under the terms of the act.

This policy promises to extend those protections to cover “mental health conditions that are episodic and fluctuating”.

Existing protections cover long-term conditions which meet at least one of three criteria:

  • have lasted at least 12 months
  • the total period for which it lasts is likely to be at least 12 months
  • which is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected

However, the official government guidance also makes clear that there are many instances in which:

“Conditions with effects which recur only sporadically or for short periods can still qualify as impairments for the purposes of the Act, in respect of the meaning of ‘long-term’”

So the guidance implies protection already exists for “episodic and fluctuating” mental health conditions. The manifesto does not expand on the details of the planned extensions to those Equality Act protections.

Despite the prior existence of protections as described in this policy, the manifesto pledge is to “extend Equalities Act protections” and we can find no evidence of such amendments to the legislation.

In November 2018, a number of major business, education and mental health leaders wrote to the Prime Minister to ask her to honour this manifesto pledge and “establish a baseline for protecting mental health in the workplace”.

We’re marking this as ‘not started’, but we’ll be seeking clarification from government as to the specific objectives of this policy, and we’ll consult further with independent organisations on the sufficiency of protection offered under the law as it currently stands. Follow this policy for updates.

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