Workplace Burnout, Disability & Discrimination

Workplace Burnout, Disability & Discrimination

An employment tribunal had recently ruled that a legal firm had discriminated against an employee, at the time the disabled employee was experiencing significant levels of burnout. The employment tribunal found that the firm had failed to understand its employee’s impairments relating to mental health conditions, as a result, the employer failed to respond inclusively and appropriately. At times the employee was working in the excess of 15 hours per day. Cases like these demonstrate the importance of employers gaining an understanding of why disability equality awareness training is valuable for the culture of a company.  In the Case – Taplin v Freeths LLP, the employer was aware of the long hours worked by the employee and their impairment, diagnoses of adjustment disorder, anxiety, and depression. Despite this, the employer had not taken any steps to train themselves or their staff on disability equality awareness, there was no health assessment or implementation of reasonable adjustments to address the support of the employee's impairments or reduce the excessive working hours. 

Definition of burnout at work?

Employers need to be aware that extreme or prolonged stresses in the work environment can build up over time and result in employee burnout. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘burnout is defined as a syndrome of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed'. It can also result in the employee feelings low levels of energy or severe exhaustion, with employees developing feelings of negativity or employees/employers having the perception that the disabled employee isn’t meeting the expectations or requirements of the role.

Disability under the Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is disabled if they have a mental or physical impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on their ability to undertake normal day-to-day activities. It should also be noted that ‘substantial’ means more than minor or trivial, and ‘long term’ applies to anything lasting for 12 months or longer.

What inclusive measures can be put into place to support employers and increase inclusion throughout the workplace?

Long-hours culture, under-resourcing, and excessive pressure should always be avoided by all companies. As seen in the Case of Taplin v Freeths. A non-inclusive working environment is likely to have a significant impact on employees' impairment(s) and create an acquired mental health impairment.

It is imperative that employers are vigilant in identifying and recognising signs of employees experiencing burnout and strongly implement the requested reasonable adjustments. 

T.I.N encourage employers to the importance of disability equality awareness, to ensure that companies are working inclusively. Also, we recommend conducting regular reviews of all diversity and inclusion policies, and strongly think about how to positively raise awareness of disability equality by engaging in our inclusive disability equality training workshop. 

For tailored support on our inclusive workshops or any other area of inclusion, send us an email to: