Managing employees post pandemic

Coming out of the pandemic, many people are suffering from anxiety and depression. It’s been 18 months of isolation, bad news and a great deal of pressure on all sides and everyone has taken the strain. Now as offices start to open up again and working transitions back to pre-pandemic work situations, it’s bringing on new stress factors. Some people may simply not be up to returning to normal. At what point does anxiety and depression amount to a disability?

In a recent webinar we chatted to Keely Baigent of KSABLaw who explained the legal parameters companies need to take into consideration when managing employees with anxiety and depression. It was really interesting to hear what defines a disability, and in this article we’ll be outlining four questions to ask that’ll more clearly define the situation and determine if it qualifies as a disability.

 

What amounts to a disability?

In short, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day to day functions. A person may be unable to focus or concentrate on tasks, may feel restless, fearful or hopeless to the degree that the simplest of tasks becomes too much effort. This would therefore be considered an impairment. To further define a disability it’s helpful to review the situation in the context of the following four questions:

1. Does the person has a mental or physical impairment?

In the case of anxiety or depression it wouldn’t be classified as a physical impairment, but rather a mental impairment as it is the person’s state of mind that is affected. Even if the impacts are on their physical ability to work or perform daily tasks.

2. Does the impairment have an adverse effect on a person’s ability to perform routine daily activities?

A company needs to apply these questions to individuals in the context of a large group of people. The average adult in good health, should be capable of taking care of themselves, use transport, go shopping and conduct daily activities for themselves. If they cannot due to a mental impairment this could amount to a disability.

For example, if someone says they don’t feel like getting out of bed or taking a shower, or if their house is a mess because they don’t have the energy to tidy up or make a meal, this means they cannot take care of themselves in terms of everyday tasks. It’s not just one thing they can’t manage but multiple daily tasks that should be easy to do. If a person finds them overwhelming then the anxiety or depression they suffer from could amount to a disability.

3. Is the effect substantial (defined as more than minor or trivial)

When taking this question into consideration the focus should be on what the person can’t do, rather than what they can. Additionally, the effects need to be taken into consideration in the absence of daily use of medication or regular therapy sessions. In other words if the medical diagnosis is that a person cannot function without either of these interventions, then the effect is considered substantial. It is quite acceptable for employers to ask employee what they can’t do, or what they struggle with on a daily basis to determine if the effect is substantial.

4. Is the effect long term?

Long term is defined as being 12 months or longer. In other words, has the person be struggling with anxiety or depression for the past 12 months or more? If it’s a period of less than 12 months then the consideration needs to be if the disability is likely to be resolved in the near future or if it could potentially continue long term? The effects of anxiety and depression are often progressive and may start off as minor, but then over time build up to a level where a person can no longer take care of personal daily activities. This would need to be assessed by a medical professional, especially in terms of how long a person has been affected.

 

While the subject of anxiety, depression and disability may be a sensitive one, it should not be shied away from, especially if it is impacting employees and their ability to work. At the same time, employees are more likely to be forthcoming about their situation if they feel their situation will be met with understanding and empathy.

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We recruit throughout the East Midlands covering Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutland and the surrounding areas, especially Market Harborough, Lutterworth, Leicester, Corby and Kettering. We help people find their perfect job and match suitable job seekers with businesses looking to hire the best candidates across our five specialisms – SalesMarketingAccountancy & FinanceHR and Office