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Are you working too hard?

View profile for Emily Yeardley
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Do you feel physically and emotionally exhausted all the time and lack motivation at work? Do you have a demanding job that constantly makes you feel stressed? You could be suffering from ‘burnout’. The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on 29th May 2019 that burnout will be recognised as a medical condition in 2020.  

The WHO has defined burnout as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Symptoms can include;

  • Feeling tired all the time and lacking energy at work;
  • Increased negativity towards your job;
  • Feeling overwhelmed and constantly stressed at work;
  • Reduced efficiency and inability to concentrate at work;
  • Feeling indifferent towards your personal hygiene and/or appearance when going to work; and
  • Other health issues e.g. migraines, eye strain, back pain.

The WHO hopes that by recognising burnout as a medical condition, employees and employers will be encouraged to talk openly and together find solutions to help relieve the symptoms and avoid the costs of sickness absence.

The Equality Act 2010 applies to discrimination. It is against the law to discriminate against a disabled person. However, for an employee to be protected under the Equality Act, they must have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Although there is no need for an impairment to be a recognised medical condition, the classification of burnout as a medical condition by WHO may assist employees in arguing that they are disabled in the eyes of the law, provided they can demonstrate that there is a substantial effect on their ability to function normally.

An employer will be liable for discrimination if they treat an employee less favourably as a result of their disability or because of something arising in consequence of their disability. If an employee is disabled, the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to alleviate any substantial disadvantage caused by the impairment, for example, adjusting working hours or providing access to counselling.

If you believe you are suffering from burnout, you could speak to HR or your employer to see how it can support you and consider what, if any, reasonable adjustments can be made.

Taking regular breaks, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet are all proven to help alleviate symptoms of stress.

If you would like to discuss this article in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Employment team.

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

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