27th June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness day and we at Hodge Jones & Allen would like to shine a light on how employers and employees can work together to make the condition manageable in the workplace.
The NHS defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an “anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events”. 1 in 3 people can go on to develop PTSD after either witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event, such as a violent assault, road accident or even childbirth. Whilst more prevalent among military personnel, it is not a condition only those in the armed forces can have which is still a common misconception. .
The charity PTSD UK explains that the effects of PTSD are unique to each person, however, there are some common symptoms. Many report reliving the event through flashbacks and or nightmares, they might have trouble sleeping, and experience difficulties concentrating. These symptoms can become very intense and continually invasive of an individual’s day to day living.
Under the Equality Act 2010, a mental illness will constitute a disability if it has a “substantial” negative effect on an individual’s everyday activities on a “long-term” basis. “Substantial” means that an effect is more than minor or trivial. Long-term means the effects have been occurring or likely to occur for 12 months or more.
To answer the question of this blog, yes PTSD can be a disability, but it depends on its effect on the individual. Medical evidence/advice should usually be sought to confirm this.
If an employee’s PTSD is classified as a disability, to get the full protection of the Equality Act, they would need to disclose their condition to their employer. Employees should be able to have open and honest discussions about their PTSD with their employer (whether it amounts to disability or not). Employees can choose to approach their line manager/supervisor or HR department who should treat such issues with sensitivity and confidentiality. As little or as much information that is shared is up to the employee, but what should be discussed is how the PTSD is affecting their work and what additional support is required to support them. Employees are more likely to get the support they need if they can be open and honest about their condition.
Again, under the Equality Act, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of their disability and they have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for the employee. The reasonable adjustments will depend on the employee’s individual circumstances and it is good practice to consult the employee about this, as well as obtaining advice from Occupational Health/medical professionals.
PTSD UK outlines some common adjustments such as, relocating the employee’s seat to an area with visibility of the door or window. This is particularly helpful for those who experience hypervigilance. Having flexible working hours (if appropriate), may be beneficial to those experiencing insomnia. Breaking down the workload into smaller more manageable parts may be a reasonable adjustment for those having difficulties concentrating. These are not the only adjustments that can be done, any adjustments that can be made should be tailored to each individual.
Employers must also be prepared to act promptly and effectively where staff are exposed to traumatic incidents/events at work.
If an employer requires any further information on PTSD and how to accommodate someone with PTSD in the workplace please visit:
If you have any questions about disability or other forms of discrimination, employees’ rights and the obligations on employers, contact our employment experts on 0808 252 5231 and we will be happy to help.
The author of this blog is Xania Scarlett, a Legal Assistant in the Employment Team.