Recruitment Spotlight: Mental Health & Wellbeing

Recruitment Best Practice

Employers’ procedures and guidelines should ensure that candidates have equal opportunities during the recruitment process and UK law (specifically the Equality Act) protects from discrimination.


The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is legislation designed to give rights to those with ‘protected characteristics’; disability is one of those characteristics and allows for a mental health difficulty to come under the protection of the law:

  • There must be a substantial (more than minor, not trivial), adverse impairment in relation to daily activities.
  • The difficulty should be long term (has lasted or may well last 12 months).
  • The cumulative effects of a mental health difficulty may combine to render its total effect ‘substantial’.
  • Difficulties that are episodic in nature are covered, if they are likely to reoccur.
  • A person who has recovered from a mental health difficulty also remains protected by the Act if the difficulty is likely to reoccur.
  • A person does not need to show that the adverse effects impact on any particular capacity (e.g. memory or concentration).


The following may also be taken into account:

  • The extent to which a person is able to lessen the effects of impairment by modifying their behaviour.
  • The impact of the environment and the extent to which the effects of impairment varies.

Follow the Law

It is against the law to ask questions about an individual’s health or disability during the recruitment process (except in limited circumstances). Recruitment agencies are under a similar obligation and are not permitted to disclose to their client if a candidate has a disability or mental health condition without the candidate’s express permission.

And if an applicant volunteers information about a disability or health condition, interviewers should take particular care not to follow this up with further questions about it or let it influence their recruitment decisions, apart from in very limited and set circumstances.


Prospective employers should:

  • Ask all applicants whether they need any particular arrangements or adjustments for any part of the recruitment or selection process.
  • State clearly that adjustments are available – for the application process, the interview and the job itself – so applicants understand why telling you might be beneficial.


Provide Information Pre-emptively

Taking steps to proactively highlight a positive climate will signal to candidates that employee wellbeing is a priority. Making certain company policies and procedures freely available to any prospective candidates also removes any ambiguity prior to their application.


Resources to make available could include:

  • Flexible working / remote working policy
  • Internal support systems / networks
  • Insurance provisions for mental health & wellbeing
  • Formal guidance on how to approach mental health
  • Policies and procedures for sick pay or disability related absences
  • Highlight training for managers / mental health first aiders

Review Potential Barriers in the Process

Think about possible barriers and adjustments before starting the recruitment process. Adjustments may need to be made at each stage to ensure all candidates have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, these could include:

  • Communicating the organisation’s commitment to equal opportunities during the recruitment process, including in the job advert.
  • Providing guidelines and, where possible, training for staff involved in recruitment to ensure that candidates are not discriminated against at any stage.
  • Making it clear in adverts and interviews that the organisation values staff mental health, which sends a signal that disclosure will not lead to discrimination.
  • State clearly that reasonable adjustments are available – for the interview and the job itself – so applicants understand why disclosure might be beneficial.
  • Ensuring people can disclose confidentially and any information about health or disability is kept separate from the application form, so the recruitment panel does not see it.

Retention Best Practice

Implement a Mental Health at Work Plan

Your mental health at work plan should help to create a positive culture where people feel able to talk about their mental health.

Your plan should include:

  • How you will promote the wellbeing of all staff
  • How you will tackle the work-related causes of mental health problems including routinely taking stock of the wellbeing of your staff
  • How you will support staff experiencing poor mental health
  • Signposting to relevant sources of information and support both inside and outside your organisation
  • Offering clear objectives which are shaped around your organisational vision
  • Reference to the Equality Act 2010, acknowledging that mental health may be classified as a disability. Ensure that staff can easily access it at all times. Putting your plan in the staff handbook, on the intranet, website or hard copies around the office is an easy way to do this.

Consider Policies for Disability-related Absence

In some circumstances, some people with a disability or long-term health condition may need to take additional time off, for example, for medical treatment or rehabilitation. Standard treatment and recording of these absences can mean that that person faces a disadvantage as a result of their disability.

Organisations such as the Business Disability Forum recommend recording ‘standard’ sickness and disability-related absence separately to avoid this. Some employers have a specific ‘disability leave’ policy to help managers to do this.

Anticipate Possible Adjustments for Internal Mobility

If a disabled member of your team is moving to another part of your organisation, their new manager will need to know the adjustments they need as soon as possible. Remember to ask your team member if you can pass on any information and reports on workplace adjustments so they can be put in place automatically.


Suggested adjustments for employees with mental health problems

Below are some types of adjustments that will help to support employees to manage their own mental health at work. They are not prescriptive but employees with mental health problems have found some or all of these useful, however it is important to also be guided by the person experiencing metal illness.

This list could act as a prompt for line managers and employees exploring symptoms and support needs together.

  • Flexible working or changes to start and finish times
  • Change of workspace – quieter, less busy, dividing screens
  • Changes to role (temporary or permanent)
  • Equal amount of break time, but in shorter, more frequent chunks
  • Extra training or coaching (during work hours)
  • Increased supervision or support with managing workload
  • Lightbox or seat with more natural light
  • Mediation if there are difficulties between colleagues
  • Mentor or buddy systems (formal or informal)
  • Quiet rooms
  • Phased return to work – reduced hours gradually building back up
  • Redeployment to a more suitable role
  • Relaxing absence rules for those with disability-related sickness absence
  • Temporary reallocation of some tasks
  • Time off for appointments, at short notice if needed
  • Working from home


Helpful Resources


Phone: Numbers vary, check website for local nightline numbers available


The Nightline association provides listening, support and information helplines run by university students for university students, including about mental health related issues.



Phone: 116 123 (Freephone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)



Provides emotional support allowing people to talk about feelings of distress and despair and are confidential and offer non-judge mental support.



Phone: 0300 304 7000

(Local call rates, 6am-11pm, 7 days a week)

Website: do/support/helpline/

Provides out of hours mental health and emotional support to anyone affected by mental ill health, including family, friends and carers.


Mind Infoline

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Local call rates, 9am-6pm, Mon-Fri) Text: 86463

Provides information on types of mental health issues, where to get help, medication and alternative treatments and advocacy.


Depression UK



Depression UK is a national self-help organization that offers support to everyone affected by depression.


ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

Phone: 0300 123 1100


Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. Supports good relationships between employers and employees, but also provides conciliation services to resolve workplace problems.



BITC (Business in the Community)

Phone: 020 7566 8650



BITC is the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. Its members work together to tackle a wide range of issues essential to building a sustainable future.


Fit For Work

Phone: 0800 032 6325


Fit For Work is a voluntary service that offers the wider working population access to occupational health advice and support. Employers can refer employees who’ve been off work for four weeks or more a free ‘fit for work’ assessment. The website includes an employer’s guide and a stress risk assessment tool.


Mindful Employer

Phone: 01392 677 064


Mindful Employer aims to increase awareness of mental health at work and provides easily accessible information to organisations and supports staff who experience stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions.


Mental Health Foundation workplace resources

Website: workplace

The Mental Health Foundation has developed a range of resources aimed at tackling mental health in the workplace. This includes the helpful guide ‘Managing mental health in the workplace’, produced with employee benefits specialist Unum.


Mind’s guide to workplace mental health

Website: mental-health-at-work

Mental health charity Mind’s dedicated website section on workplace mental health provides guidance to help employers take care of themselves and their staff.


This is Me

Website: power-of-diversity/this-is-me

A City wide mental health campaign, first developed by Barclay’s as part of the Lord Mayor’s 2016 Power of Diversity programme, run in partnership with Business Healthy and the City Mental Health Alliance and supported by City A.M.. It aims to reduce stigma around mental health in the workplace and raise awareness of wellbeing.


Heads Together


A mental health initiative spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, which combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services.


Action for Happiness


Action for Happiness is not-for-profit creating a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society, by helping people to take practical action drawing on the latest scientific research. It’s website provides resources and ideas for actions we can take to feel happier and help to reduce and prevent mental illness in workplaces and communities.


Rethink Mental Illness

Phone: 0121 522 7007



Rethink Mental Illness provide a range of support, advice and information services relating to mental illness. Rethink runs over 200 mental health services and 150 support groups across England, including therapy services, peer support groups and many more.


Together for Mental Wellbeing Phone: 0207 780 7300

Email: Website:

Together is a national charity working alongside people with mental health issues. It provides a range of specialist support services, including peer support services, accommodation based support and more.