What does the new Mental Health Discrimination Act mean for UK companies?

On 28 April 2013, the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 came into force with great appreciation and gratitude from charities and medical practitioners.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, described this as a "watershed moment for attitudes to mental health". So how does it set out to achieve the removal of one of the "the last bastions of legalised discrimination", as described by Sue Bailey from the Royal College of Psychiatrists?

All companies registered in the United Kingdom are required to adopt a corporate constitution otherwise known as articles of association. Companies may decide to write their own bespoke articles of association or they may decide to adopt pre-written "model articles of association".

Prior to the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013, paragraph 18(e) of the model articles for private companies limited by shares or by guarantee, and paragraph 22(e) of the model articles for public limited companies provided that a director’s appointment could be terminated if "by reason of that person’s mental health, a court makes an order which wholly or partly prevents that person from personally exercising any powers or rights which that person would otherwise have".

Since 28 April 2013 this provision has been removed from the model articles of association. For companies which adopted the model articles of association (or similar articles) prior to this date, there is no requirement to amend their articles. However, TMF Group would recommend that all companies with articles containing such provisions should carefully review their articles and consider removing any provisions which might discriminate or appear to discriminate against people with mental illnesses.

Philip McCarron, TMF Group

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