New law to revise people’s attitudes towards mental illness at work
A new piece of legislation set to be passed will alter people's attitudes towards mental illness at work.
That was the view of Jane Crosby, solicitor at law firm Hart Brown, who believes the new Mental Health Discrimination Bill is a "step forward" in changing how society views mental illness.
The aim of the Bill is to reduce the stigma and negative perceptions associated with mental illness. It would repeal legislative provisions that can prevent people with mental health conditions from serving as Members of Parliament, members of the devolved legislatures, jurors, or company directors.
Crosby said: "This piece of legislation is an important step forward in changing how society views mental illness and the resulting prejudices which it can sometimes bring for an individual.
"Protection for employees can already be found under the Equality Act which makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person in the workplace who has a clinically recognised mental illness. This Bill however goes further into three other areas of public life. It removes the automatic requirement for MPs to relinquish their seats if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months; it allows jurors to be considered for jury service if they have suffered a mental illness; and finally it amends the Companies Act which previously required a director to resign from a company by reason of their mental health.
"Extensive studies have been carried out by organisations which highlight that there is still a stigma to mental illness and a perception that people are unable to recover from mental health conditions.
"While this Bill will only remove the barriers in three areas of society, it should help to reduce discriminatory behaviours by breaking down the suggestion that people with mental health problems are unable to function in public office and also will allow people to seek professional help without fear of jeopardising their future.
"Businesses will now have to consider more carefully the treatment of directors who suffer from mental health issues in the future and ensure that any formal written contracts comply with the new Act.