Disability Discrimination Act welcomed – but with reservations

Mental health charities have welcomed the enacting of the Disability Discrimination Act this month, but have criticised the Government for missing an opportunity to extend employment protection to people who have experienced depression.

The House of Commons overturned an amendment made by Lord Skelmersdale and passed in the Lords that would have meant that anyone who had experienced depression within the previous five years – to the degree that it had had a substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities for a period of six months or more – should be treated as if that effect is likely to recur, even if they are not currently experiencing depression.

Maca’s Chief Executive, Gil Hitchon, commented: “The new Disability Discrimination Act gives much greater protection to a wide range of people with disabilities, and we’re delighted to see it become law. But the Government’s decision to overturn the Lords amendment on depression is a big disappointment. People who have experienced depression often face stigma and discrimination in the workplace, but they will now have less protection than people with other disabilities.”

Jason Tynan, Back-to-Work Co-Ordinator for Hafal, stated: “The new legislation is very welcome for people with a mental illness, even though people who have experienced depression have been let down by this overturned amendment.

“It is important that people with any kind of illness or disability are protected by law and that we have equality in the workplace. But we also need to change general attitudes of employers towards mental illness. Statistics show that employers are far more reluctant to employ a person with a mental illness than with a physical disability.”

For more on the Disability Discrimination Act, go to: