UpdateCan anxious workers wear headphones or listen to music?

17th June 2021
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A recent employment tribunal decision held that employees with anxiety should be allowed to listen to music as they work.

The claimant in this case worked for the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and had been absent from work due to anxiety and depression. At a return-to-work interview, the claimant explained that listening to music helped her when she was feeling stressed and that it would be good if she could do this if needed at work, especially as when she feels anxious, listening to music helps her to relax and so aids productivity.

Furthermore, the claimant explained that her GP and counsellor had recommended she do something to distract her at times when she is around others and cannot control her emotions and that listening to music was a coping mechanism that worked for her.

Following this meeting, the claimant was told that whilst listening to music was not officially permitted by the DWP, her line manager allowed her to do so discreetly and advised her not to get caught. The claimant believed she had her line manager’s approval for doing so.

Later that year, the claimant was told that she must not listen to music, effectively removing a previously agreed reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.

The tribunal held that the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) had discriminated against the claimant for not allowing her to wear headphones that helped to combat her anxiety, and went on to say that tacitly condoning the claimant listening to music, provided she did it discreetly and did not get caught, was not the same as giving the claimant express permission to do so and the failure to give that express permission was a breach of the respondent’s duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Additionally, the judgment found that the DWP’s practice of not permitting listening to music deprived the claimant of a coping mechanism which helped her to manage anxiety and stress levels.

W Legal are able to provide any assistance and or training in this area and would love to answer any questions either an employer or employee may have.

If you would like to have a confidential discussion with our employment department, please get in touch with Charlotte Turnbull at charlotte.turnbull@wlegal.co.uk

 

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