HR 22 February 2018

Do employees need to disclose that they take anti-depressants?

The use of anti-depressants has soared in recent years

As a new study claims more people suffering from mental health conditions should be prescribed anti-depressants, Health Assured CEO David Price helps employers understand when staff are entitled to maintain privacy over their medication.

A study carried out by scientists has revealed that anti-depressants are more efficient than previously thought at reducing the symptoms of depression. The use of anti-depressants has soared in recent years, with 64.7m prescriptions made in England in 2016.

As use increases, the likelihood is that nearly all workplaces will have an employee who is suffering from a mental health condition and has been prescribed anti-depressants to reduce their symptoms.

Employers are likely to want to be informed about the use of anti-depressants so they can manage this, but employees do have a right to privacy. However, in certain industries they will be required to disclose their use of prescription medication.

This will mostly be prevalent in industries where the possible side effects of the drugs could cause a health and safety risk to the employee themselves and others around them, such as increased fatigue or tiredness.

A requirement to disclose will usually be contained in the company alcohol and drugs policy or in the employee’s individual contract of employment. This requirement should indicate who the employee has to make the disclosure to make them feel more comfortable about approaching this person.

It will also be important that employers are aware of the use of anti-depressants because depression can be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 where it causes a significant adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Employers who are experiencing a situation where their staff are showing a change in personality, low mood or a change in their normal behaviour, such as periods of increased absence, can invite the employee to a meeting to discuss whether they require any workplace support.

Asking questions

Asking open questions in a sensitive and supportive manner is likely to make the employee feel more comfortable about disclosing their mental health condition and any medication they are on. This will then allow the employer to make workplace adjustments to remove any barriers the employee faces.

Creating an open and honest workplace where employees feel they can talk about their mental health conditions, and the use of any treatment, will encourage employees to proactively disclose their use of anti-depressant to their line manager or employer. This ensures employers are aware of the use of prescribed medication and can take any necessary steps to support the individual whilst they are at work.

To do so, businesses can introduce a positive and supportive mental health policy or plan which sets out their commitment towards helping employees in the workplace and the type of support that is offered. This could range from Employee Assistance Programmes which provide confidential counselling services to the contact details for a local support group.

The policy can also be used to encourage staff to raise any mental health concerns with designated people in the business, such as HR or their line manager, as this removes any uncertainty about who they can talk to.

Managers should also receive training on how to monitor mental health and wellbeing at work and how to carry out sensitive conversations with employees as it will often be their attitude that affects how mental health is seen within the business.

David Price is CEO at Health Assured

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