That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person's mental health status and to provide for related matters.
The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill 2017 seeks to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 to expand the definition of mental health. In 1998 and 2000, respectively, Fianna Fáil introduced the Employment Equality Act and the Equal Status Act. Disability is one of the nine grounds of discrimination set out in the Acts. While the definition of disability includes mental illness, the definition within the Acts provides a restrictive medical definition of mental health. Attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices about mental health can lead to discrimination.
In my role as mental health spokesperson, I regularly meet people who tell me they have been discriminated against because of their mental health status.
These are people who find themselves treated less favourably than someone else solely because of their mental health status. For that reason, my party and I bring forward this Bill with a broadened definition of mental health to prevent discrimination on mental health grounds, on a human rights basis.
This Bill seeks to add an expanded definition of mental health under the equality legislation. The Bill aims to solve three problems. First, it will help employees who may have mental health issues. It does so by tackling one of the obstacles facing people who suffer from a mental health issue in their employment situation, namely, discrimination. If enacted, it will be crystal clear for employers and employees alike that discrimination based on mental health status is against the law.
The second problem it will address is the need to prohibit any attempt to limit services based on a person’s mental health status. This legislation will make it illegal to limit the provision of services based on a person’s mental health status. Discrimination on the grounds of mental health status violates the very principle of equality for which we all seek to strive.
Finally, this Bill promotes equality by seeking to protect those who have been subjected to discrimination. It is crucial that every person is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of a person’s mental health status. This Bill will serve as a further step towards bringing Ireland in line with international standards on equality and understanding of mental health as a human rights issue and not just a medical illness issue.