The number of disability discrimination claims brought to employment tribunals increased last year by 37%, from 4,770 claims in 2017 to 6,550 in 2018.
According to Ministry of Justice figures, this growth rate is eight times that of all tribunal claims, which rose by 4% over the same period.
Experts are attributing the rise in disability discrimination claims to a number of factors, including the removal of tribunal fees in 2017, increased awareness among workers that mental ill health could be classed as a disability under the Equality Act and that employees are more willing to pursue claims relating to mental health disabilities.
There is also no minimum service requirement to bring a tribunal claim for disability discrimination.
Despite increasing awareness of the impact of high levels of stress and depression on an individual’s productivity, performance and working life, workers are now facing a range of increased pressures impacting their mental health.
Modern workplace pressures of redundancies, restructuring programmes and increased regulatory burdens are resulting in stress-related absences, which can lead to disciplinary action or dismissal.
According to Health and Safety Executive figures there were 26.8 million days lost through work-related ill health in 2017-18. Among those who took days off the longest absences were of those suffering stress, depression and anxiety (26 days), followed by general ill health cases (20 days).
Employers are being encouraged to ensure they are able to handle the pressures facing their employees, to identify when issues may be related to mental health and to deal with the issues before they reach tribunal stage. Measures could include training for managers to increase awareness and help reduce the likelihood of claims arising relating to mental health discrimination.