You break the law if you hide mental health problems, workers told

Employers can act against those who conceal mental health problems, says the Malaysian Mental Health Association.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Mental Health Association has advised workers with mental health problems to disclose their condition to their employers even if they risk being discriminated against.

The organisation’s president, Dr Andrew Mohanraj, warned that employers could take legal action against them for concealing their ailment.

“Any undisclosed relevant information can be regarded as fraud,” he told FMT.

“If a person with a mental health condition doesn’t disclose it at the time of employment, the employer has an upper hand in terms of taking action against or not supporting him.”

Mohanraj acknowledged that such disclosure would more likely than not result in rejection of a job application.

Dr Andrew Mohanraj

“Employers are afraid of absenteeism, poor work performance and safety concerns. This is due to a poor understanding of mental health conditions,” he said.

He noted that the Mental Health Act lacks specific provisions to protect employees with mental health conditions from any form of discrimination at the workplace, but he pointed out  the Disabilities Act suggests “reasonable accommodation” to ensure that people with mental and other disabilities have a quality of life similar to the kind the able enjoy.

“Ultimately, it boils down to contractual obligations and disclosure. If an employee falls ill with mental or physical illness, receives treatment and recovers within the stipulated period, then there should be no problem. The employer will not have grounds to dismiss the employee.”

Mohanraj proposed that the Employment Act be amended to include a provision against discrimination at the workplace.

“No one should suffer discrimination on the basis of physical or mental illness unless it is clear that the illness cannot be controlled or that a specific condition will definitely interfere with work performance despite being treated previously or being under treatment at the time of employment,” he said.

He also said medical insurance for employees with coverage for mental health would help reduce discrimination and stigmatisation at the workplace.

Last week, in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day, the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association launched a crisis centre at its Orchid Clubhouse here.

It is the first of such facility in the country catering to people experiencing or recovering from mental health conditions, and providing them with a safe space in a community that supports their recovery.