The BBC’s Inside Out programme on 13th October will explore the current provisions for those with Dementia in the UK. Dementia can affect people of all ages and in this article we consider raising awareness and how employers can promote a positive approach to mental health in the workplace.

In 2015, 850,000 people in the UK are predicted to have Dementia. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. It is not just about an individual losing their memory; it can affect thinking, communication and doing everyday tasks.

There could be someone working in a workplace that has Dementia or an individual may be caring for someone with Dementia. Points we would suggest are considered are:

  1. Spot the signs, engage with the individual and promote awareness and communication at an early stage. This is encouraged by ACAS and can help employees to remain in work and be productive
  2. Dementia can affect people in different ways – they may have increased absences; their performance may be affected; or they may be changes in behaviour. Employers should have informal and formal procedures in place so that the signs can be spotted, openly discussed and supervisors trained appropriately
  3. Private and open minded discussions should be carried out to understand the symptoms and any triggers so that advice and support can be given and reviewed
  4. ‘Time off for dependants’ is only available in limited circumstances. A dependant is restricted to spouse, civil partner, child, or a person who lives in the same household. It does not include wider family, such as siblings or grandparents. It is also only for an unexpected or emergency situation and for a reasonable time. Planned appointments or arranged visits to care homes are unlikely to fall under this definition so may not be an option which is available to many
  5. Employees may wish to request holiday to attend their appointments or to accompany another to appointments.  Clear procedures for requesting holiday should be in place. There may be alternative options available for taking time off so that holiday is saved for rest and recuperation (see below)
  6. The right to request flexible working was extended in 2014 to cover all employees who have 26 weeks continuous service. Employers may consider granting a temporary flexible working request to help an employee or an employee caring for dementia
  7. As Dementia can affect day-to –day activities, the symptoms are likely to fall within the definition of a disability under the Equality Act. Employers should ensure they do not treat the employee with symptoms of Dementia less favourably. They should make reasonable adjustments to policies and procedures such as allowing unpaid time off for appointments relating to their health; alter working hours or duties; allow employees to take personal calls to professionals or the person they are caring for during the day. Employers should also ensure they do not discriminate by association for someone who is caring for someone with dementia
  8. If a person with dementia engages the services of a carer directly, they could be employing the carer. They will need to ensure they comply with Employment legislation, have an Employment Contract in place and abide by other rights and benefits.