Disclosure: Telling your manager | Talking about mental health problems at work

Deciding whether or not to tell your employer and colleagues about your mental health problem can be difficult.

Some people say being able to talk openly with their employer has really helped them. Others may not agree.

Remember that with the right help people experiencing mental health problems can – and do – stay at work.You should not be treated badly at work because of your mental health condition or because others believe that you have a disability. The law is there to protect you.

The pros and cons
If you do decide to tell, think about how and when to do it, how much information you want to give, what kind of information and with whom to share it.  Often people think that employers and colleagues will react negatively if told that someone has a mental health problem. However, the law states that employers and others should not discriminate. Some areas, such as offering reasonable adjustments, work best if you disclose your mental health condition and then discuss with your employer what changes may help you.

The Shaw Trust also provides support on how to stay in work. One case study gives a good example of how employers can assist you

Top tips

  • Remember you are not alone – one in six of our workforce experiences mental health problems each year and with a bit of practice, many people can balance their health with the demands of a job.

  • It’s your choice – disclosure of mental health issues at work is a personal choice, and you can say as much or as little as you want. If you need more support, being open can help you get it.

  • Request a one-to-one meeting with your manager – Get some private time where you can discuss your mental health, how it relates to your work, and what might help you manage your health so you can perform well.

  • Remember you are the expert on your needs – agree a plan of changes with your boss and a time to meet again to discuss whether things have improved. If you’re not sure what might help, try small experimental steps, and make a note of whether they help or not.

  • You have rights – if your boss is unhelpful or dismissive, remember they have legal duties under the Equality Act to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ and not discriminate in recruiting, retaining or promoting staff. Mental health problems are a disability under the Act so you are likely to be protected, but always seek legal advice.

What's reasonable at work?

This practical guide to reasonable adjustments and support in the workplace for anyone with a mental illness who is preparing to work, or is in work currently. In particular, this booklet introduces Wellness & Recovery Action Plans, which are a useful tool for identifying and arranging support at work.

Real life experiences

This question and answer session on The Guardian Online gives some recent real examples of the things you need to be aware of when you are deciding whether or not to disclose your mental health problem.


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