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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

With the commencement of January, an increasing number of employers have been contacting us with questions regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what it is, and the impact that it has on their workplace.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) –also known as winter / summer depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression – is a type of depressive illness that affects people during certain parts of the year. It most commonly occurs during December, January, and February but not necessarily.

The number of people who identify themselves as having the condition has increased in recent years potentially because it is less obscure than it once was. With at least 1 in 50 people in the UK thought to have the condition, it is more important than ever for employers to learn about it.

One of the most obvious ways of spotting that an employee has SAD is if they have a much greater attendance during the summer months than during the winter. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Tiredness / lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Weight gain (winter SAD) and weight loss (summer SAD)
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Oversleeping (lateness to work)
  • Lack of concentration

This potential lack of attendance is naturally a concern for some employers, but where do they stand when it comes to disciplining lack of attendance? It is acceptable for employers to set an expected level of attendance; in the event that an employee does not meet this expectation they will receive warnings about it. However, if the SAD is considered a disability by doctors then the employer may have a duty to take certain measures to accommodate it.

One way to accommodate it would be to provide an SAD lamp where sufferers can sit down in front of for a delineated period of time each day.

If you have any questions about SAD in the workplace – whether you are a staff member who suffers from the condition or an employer who has questions regarding an employee with it, please get in touch.