How employers should approach the winter blues - Mitrefinch

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How employers should approach the winter blues

Published: February 2, 2016

Most of us are familiar with the ‘winter blues’, especially as it gets to that time of year when the sun is no longer shining, and we have to return back to the daily grind after a short oasis in the form of annual leave.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that manifests predominantly in the winter. Some attribute the cause of it to mental impairment caused by lack of sunlight.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that SAD should be treated in the same way as other types of depression

Antidepressants and therapy may be prescribed for such cases. Writing in a blog on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Michelle Lawlor-Perkins, a senior solicitor and William Downing said that in such cases where SAD has a substantial and long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to function normally, SAD is considered a disability under UK law.

Writing for the CIPD, Michelle said: “It might seem that SAD sufferers would not satisfy this 12 month threshold given that symptoms tend to improve during the lighter months, but there are special rules regarding recurring conditions.

“If an employee can show (usually through medical evidence) that the substantial adverse effect of the impairment is likely to recur on at least one occasion, then he or she may be held to be disabled, even if there is no immediate prospect of the condition recurring. And the law protects not only those with current disabilities from discrimination, but those who have had disabilities in the past too.”

She added that in cases where the effects of SAD are ‘substantial’, an employee can legally be considered to be disabled.

By law, employers have to make reasonable adjustments for those suffering from disabilities. So for example, in the case of SAD, moving the individual next to a window, providing a special light box lamp and assisting with counselling provision.

Earlier this month, a report published by employee health risk specialist Willis PMI Group found that 23 per cent of UK workers experience symptoms of SAD.

Mitrefinch offers absence management technology, that can track absence rates and help employers get to the bottom of any productivity of sick leave problems.

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