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Employer doesn't know what Bipolar Disorder is!!

(11 Posts)
runnermum1974 Mon 24-Jun-13 10:55:23

Hi there.

I'm writing on behalf of my friend who is in hospital.

Basically, she has Bipolar Disorder and her employer started to really pile on the pressure at work, and then also put her at risk of redundancy in a controversial selection pool. Last week she ended up having a mental breakdown and has had to be admitted to hospital.

Her other half has written a letter explaining that they should have made reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010, partcicularly in relation to the workload, so that it didn't get to the point of her having a mental breakdown due to the stress.

HR's response was that whilst they knew she had Bipolar Disorder they didn't know what it was (and didn't check either), so couldn't have been expected to make reasonable adjustments either with the workload or redundancy process.

Is that a suitable defence? Can they get away with it on the basis of ignorance?


flowery Mon 24-Jun-13 11:00:01

Did she request reasonable adjustments including an adjustment to her workload at the time?

What adjustments did she need with the redundancy process, and did she ask for these during consultation?

When you say is their response a suitable defence, does that mean she has put in a legal claim?

evelynj Mon 24-Jun-13 11:04:35

Doesn't sound too hot on hr side but I'm no legal expert. Did they ask for any more information on the illness or do anything to find out more? Would have thought they should have done a bit more if they care about their staff

runnermum1974 Mon 24-Jun-13 11:08:42

She made her employer aware that she had Bipolar Disorder, so that they could make allowances for her. They never spoke to her about reasonable adjustments after she informed them about her condition. My understanding was that the duty was on the employer once they were aware of a disability.

She assumed that they were going to make reasonable adjustments in the consultation process because they were aware she had Bipolar Disorder. She didn't know how reasonable adjusments work. She said she would have needed extra time in the test and interview.

By defence - I mean that she is considering a claim because of the impact the failure to make reasonable adjustments had on her health. The employer is putting up an initial defence that they didn't know what Bipolar Disorder was (and over the phone the HR lady admitted to not checking either), even they they admit to know she had it. Is ignorance about a disability a defence for not considering reasonable adjustments?

flowery Mon 24-Jun-13 12:04:02

Well, ignorance isn't necessarily a defence, but I don't think it's as simple as that tbh.

Get your friend to have a read here and

here, all useful stuff about reasonable adjustments.

While of course her employer should have educated themselves about bipolar disorder, but I also think her employer will have a reasonable argument if they say that if your friend required an adjustment to time allowed for tests and interviews, she should have flagged that up at the time. Was she made redundant as a result of the process?

A quick google of reasonable adjustments for bipolar disorder got me this article, which is useful, and among other things states that "there is no check-list of reasonable adjustments for bipolar sufferers". It's not like some disabilities where the kind of reasonable adjustments that might be required are a bit more obvious.

Yes they should have educated themselves a bit more, and yes they should have proactively asked her whether any adjustments were necessary and considered those. But I also think if your friend required adjustments, she should have put her hand up and said so, to give them every opportunity to put those in place.

Has she raised a grievance? Are they supporting her adequately at the moment, and involving Occupational Health/other medical advice in terms of getting her back to work and what adjustments need to be made now?

annh Mon 24-Jun-13 12:17:42

Did your friend discuss with her employers what specific adjustments would be helpful to her? As Flowery said, Bipolar Disorder doesn't come with a convenient, standard list of symptoms which can be alleviated in a specific fashion. If it would have been helpful to have extra time in an interview and test situation (specifically because of her condition and not just for the sake of extra time), did she discuss this with them beforehand?

runnermum1974 Mon 24-Jun-13 12:19:55

The redundancy process is on-going. She hasn't had the results of her interview and test yet, as she had her breakdown shortly after.

I get that she should have put her hand up, but she didn't want to seem like a nuisance esp. With redundancy looming.

As she's in hospital, she hasn't raised a grievance yet. Thy are a small firm and haven't done much support since her breakdown apart from allow sick leave and put her redundancy stuff on hold until she is better.

runnermum1974 Mon 24-Jun-13 12:22:58

Btw - flowery, that Bipolar article was really useful. Thanks.

flowery Mon 24-Jun-13 13:04:23

You're welcome. Interesting stuff isn't it?

It is difficult for small businesses, which is not to make excuses at all. I'm glad they've put the redundancy stuff on hold. When she's better, she should make sure she discusses with them any adjustments she feels she needs during the process, and if appropriate, she could ask them to re-test her/re-interview her.

I would expect her employer to seek expert advice as to whether these adjustments are appropriate for her condition, but assuming they are, they should be pretty easy to accommodate from a practical point of view of course.

I would also be advising her employer to seek medical and/or OH-specific opinion more generally about her condition, how it impacts on her work and what if any adjustments they could/should be making. There's probably not an awful lot they can practically be doing while she's actually in hospital, but when it gets to the point where she's back home and a return to work is being discussed, then would be a good time for them to seek advice on how to support her.

Whether they do all those things will be relevant to whether it's worth her raising a grievance/bringing a legal claim.

runnermum1974 Mon 24-Jun-13 13:54:56

Thanks Flowery.

FYI I got some legal advice. They said if the employer knew or should reasonably have known about the disability, then they can't really claim ignorance about what the disability means. The employer knew about the condition and it was unreasonable to not look into what it meant for the employee.

Will see how it goes.

flowery Mon 24-Jun-13 13:58:36

Well I do agree with that. I think they should have proactively asked her, as well as googling, which took me approximately 10 seconds to do.. grin

I think the fact that she didn't ask for adjustments is mitigating in their defence though. But I'm not a tribunal judge!

Hopefully they'll be supportive in terms of getting her back to work, and seeking proper medical advice about supporting her/adjustments, and it won't come to that.

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