Mental illness doesn’t mean ‘unfit’

Regarding your article about Cheltenham Borough Council suing a former employee (‘Disability discrimination risk for council suing former MD’, Personneltoday.com, 29 January), we at the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) have been much perturbed by the suggestion, made by media reporting this case, that having mental health problems can automatically make someone unfit for a position, at any level.

A phrase in your article exemplifies the problem: “The council maintains that Laird claimed she was fit to take on the most senior management role when in fact she had suffered from mental health problems.”

Phrasing of this sort demonstrates precisely why people with mental health problems might feel compelled to withhold information, as many candidates believe that full disclosure will lead to their automatic rejection.

It is all too easy for employers to reject candidates because of mental health conditions, and then simply state that they were not the best candidate. Employers have little right to demand complete transparency from candidates, while reserving the right to discriminate against them in secret.

A simple solution is to perform health screening only after a candidate has been given a preliminary job offer. The candidate then knows whether they have been turned down on the basis of their medical history, and discrimination cannot be hidden behind a blank statement.

We would urge HR professionals to implement this policy, which could make a real difference for many talented people with mental health conditions currently being discriminated against.

Liz Sayce, chief executive, RADAR

Comments are closed.