By September 7, 2010November 18th, 2019Absence

Is depression a disability?

As business continues to be tough many companies are finding it hard to continue employing people who are absent due to long term or regular sickness.  When considering bringing someone’s employment to an end due to ill health one of the key factors employers have to be mindful of is whether the person’s ill health might be classed as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

One particularly merky area is depression.  If it has been a long term condition is it classed as a disability? 

In a recent case where a Claimant alleged that an offer of employment had been withdrawn because she had disclosed previous episodes of depression, the Tribunal rejected her claim saying that depression was not sufficiently well defined to be classed as a disability and that the effect was minor or trivial.

On appeal this was overturned.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) noted a crucial difference between clinical depression and a reaction to “adverse life effects”.  Even though a reaction to adverse circumstances may cause low moods and anxiety, it would not be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

That said, according to the EAT, whether an employee is suffering from depression or simply reacting to adverse circumstances, the real test that Tribunals should apply breaks down into four key points:

1. Is the person suffering from a mental impairment?
2. Are its effects adverse?
3. Are its effects substantial?
4. Are its effects long term?

The EAT went on to say that a GP was fully qualified to express an opinion on whether their patient is suffering from depression and to answer any associated questions you may have in relation to whether their condition may be covered by the DDA.

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