Mental health and human rights in the workplace

Author: Pooja Shrivastav, IME Law College.


The capacity to work productively is a key component of health and emotional well-being. Common Mental Disorders (CMDs) are associated with reduced workplace productivity. It is anticipated that this impact is greatest in developing countries. Furthermore, workplace stress is associated with a significant adverse impact on emotional wellbeing and is linked with an increased risk of CMDs. This review will elaborate on the relationship between workplace environment and psychiatric morbidity. The evidence for mental health promotion and intervention studies will be discussed. A case will be developed to advocate for workplace reform and research to improve mental health in workplaces in developing countries in order to improve the wellbeing of employees and workplace productivity.


Mental illness can be a prohibition subject in our society and our workplaces. People with mental health disabilities and addictions may be exposed to stereotypes based on irrational fear, leading to experience of stigma. They may also experience systemic barriers to accessing employment. Employees may find themselves isolated and marginalized in the workplace – impact that may be made worse by other human rights-related barriers such as race, sex, age, or homophobia. The human rights code protected you from discrimination with respect to being fired, denied a job or a promotion from harassment in your employment.

Article 27 of The UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) provides a legally-binding global framework for promoting the rights of people with disabilities (including psychosocial disabilities). It recognizes that every person with a disability has the right to work, should be treated equally and not be discriminated against, and should be provide with support in the workplace.

Example: – Factory workers make fun of a person with depression because of his disability. His factory workers and manager also constantly question him about the types of medications he is taking. This could be a form of harassment and is prohibited under the human rights code. Employers have a duty to provide sufficient space for the needs of people with mental health disabilities and addictions to the point of undue hardship.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Human right

Human rights are basic rights and freedoms which we all have. They cannot be taken away, although they can be restricted in certain circumstances.

Is there a law?

As an employer, you have legal obligations in relation to the management of mental illness in the workplace.

Ensuring health and safety: Occupational health and safety legislation requires you to ensure your workplace is safe and healthy for all workers and does not cause ill health or aggravate existing conditions.

Avoiding discrimination:Disability discrimination legislation requires you to ensure your workplace does not discriminate against or harass workers with mental illness. You are also required to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of workers with mental illness.

Ensuring privacy:Privacy legislation requires you to ensure personal information about a worker’s mental health status is not disclosed to anyone without the worker’s consent.

Avoiding adverse actions:You are also required under commonwealth industrial law to ensure your workplace does not take any adverse action against workers because of their mental illness.

All workers are legally obliged to:

1) Take reasonable care for that their own health and safety

2) take reasonable care that their acts and omissions do not adversely affect the health or safety of others

3) Cooperate with any reasonable instruction to ensure workplace health and safety.

A multilayered and multisectoral approach to prevention and treatment including provision of living and working conditions that enable healthy psychosocial development, promotion of positive interactions within and between social groups, social protection for the poor, anti-discrimination laws and campaigns, and promotion of the rights of those with mental disorders.

Similarly, the grand challenges in global mental health initiative have noted that, efforts to build mental capital- the cognitive and emotional resources that influence how well an individual is able to contribute to society and experience a high quality of life- could also mitigate the risk of disorders such as depression, substance-use disorders, bipolar disorder and dementia Thus, health-system-wide changes are crucial, together with attention to social exclusion and discrimination.

Mental health act protect individuals

The act is designed to protect the rights of people with mental health problems, and to ensure that they are only admitted to hospital against their will when it is absolutely essential to ensure their well-being or safety, or for the protection of other people.


We conclude that human rights challenge of   mental health and the responses in standard-setting and institutional practice to those challenges, as well as proposed an integrated approach to applying the emerging norms to controversial issuesof mental health practice and assess the gap between human rights law and mental health practice.


  1. Introduction by Lakshmidhar Mishra.

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