People are often anxious about disclosing their mental health problems to an employer.

But you may have rights which protect you and you should not be treated unfairly.

The main law about this is the Equality Act 2010. This says it is illegal to treat anyone differently without good reason because of a “protected characteristic” – that is, something like disability, gender, race or sexual orientation.

The Equality Act says that a mental health problem is a disability if it has a substantial and long term impact on your ability to carry out day to day activities.

  • Employers must not directly discriminate unfairly against you: for example, by saying they will not employ you because you have a mental health problem
  • Employers must not indirectly discriminate unfairly against you: for example, by saying that everyone must start their shift at 7am, when your medication means you struggle to function before 10am. However, this would only be illegal if the employer could not show that there was a genuine business need.
  • Employers cannot usually ask you medical questions before they offer you a job. This includes questions about previous sickness absence. 
  • Employers must not discriminate against you because of someone you are associated with: for example, by refusing to employ you because you have a child or partner with a mental health problem
  • Employers should make reasonable adjustments to allow you to carry out a job. For example, you might need a quieter work area or the ability to work from home if you have severe anxiety
  • Employers only have to make these adjustments if it is reasonable for them to do so, taking into account the needs of their business
  • Employers must protect you from unlawful harassment or victimisation at work, if it is related to your disability
  • Your employer can get free advice on mentally healthy workplaces from Healthy Working Lives
  • The Equality Act also protects you from being treated unfairly because of your disability by shops and suppliers, landlords and other property providers, healthcare providers and education providers
  • If you believe you have been unfairly discriminated against, you can take legal action.

What’s it Worth Now?

A SAMH review of the social and economic costs of mental health problems in Scotland, including the costs of unemployment.

Rights for Life declaration

The Rights for Life Declaration is a statement of the rights that people affected by mental health issues in Scotland are calling for.

Its aim is to help achieve transformational change to the way people affected by mental health issues enjoy their rights.

Read the declaration

Find out more about your rights

If you feel discriminated against, Citizen’s Advice Scotland provides more advice and information.

Visit Citizen’s Advice Scotland