Compliance Showcase: Mental Health Accommodations

DMEC Staff@Work

Accommodating Mental Health Disorders in the Workplace

By Sabine Eustache, DrPH, MBA, CEAS

Regional Dir., Health & Productivity Analytics
Prudential

By Heidi Bimrose, CEBS, CRC

Regional Dir., Health & Productivity Analytics
Prudential

In recent years, mental health conditions have increasingly contributed to disability-related absences.1 Mental illness is one of the top causes of disability among U.S. workers, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.2 Unlike physical disabilities, mental health disorders can go unnoticed, be episodic, and often cause employees to isolate themselves from others.

People with mental health conditions exhibit symptoms differently at work than in other settings. They may have absenteeism, tardiness, procrastination, indecisiveness, missed deadlines, irritability, and poor relationships with co-workers, managers, or clients3 — and these all result in diminished productivity.

Yet many employees avoid disclosing diagnosis or delay seeking treatment for fear of job loss and the stigma attached to mental illness. Roughly 13.5 million people experiencing mental illness in 2017 did not receive appropriate treatment and instead chose to suffer in silence.4 No wonder employers do not always detect signals of mental health concerns or know the best way to help. And employers must approach potential mental health conditions with caution, focusing initially on productivity or other work-related concerns, to avoid creating a “regarded as” condition. When approached calmly in this way, some employees may be more willing to disclose their mental health challenges.

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