Glossary of terms

Throughout Mental Health at Work, you'll see pop-up definitions of certain terms. You can browse the full list below. These definitions have been provided by our expert partners at Mind, Acas and

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Access to Work

Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme in England, Wales and Scotland that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support for people who have a disability or long term physical or mental health condition. Support can be provided where someone needs help or adaptations beyond reasonable adjustments. An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help your employee stay in work, or to support you if you are self-employed. []


Anxiety is familiar to everyone; it is usually a normal, useful and effective response in times of heightened stress, and something which can be understood and resolved. However, some people experience intense and prolonged periods of anxiety, which if left untreated, can develop into a debilitating anxiety disorder. [Mind]


A person who does not experience romantic attraction. Some aromantic people experience sexual attraction, while others do not. Aromantic people who experience sexual attraction or occasional romantic attraction might also use terms such as gay, bi, lesbian, straight and queer in conjunction with asexual to describe the direction of their attraction - definition from Stonewall -


Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem that mainly affects your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high), depressive episodes (feeling low), and potentially some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes. Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming. [Mind]



A 'cisgender' or 'cis' person experiences a match between their biological sex and your gender. For example, a female sexed person identifying with their female gender. Also a term for non-transgender people.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD, sometimes abbreviated to c-PTSD or CPTSD) is a condition where you experience some symptoms of PTSD along with some additional symptoms. These can include difficulty controlling your emotions, suicidal feelings, or avoiding friendships and relationships, among other symptoms. It can be the result of experiencing trauma.



Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live. [Mind]


Disclosure is telling a manager, colleague or employer about your mental health problem. This can feel like a very difficult thing to do, with a significant proportion of employees saying they faced demotion or disciplinary measures as a result. A key ingredient in facilitating and supporting disclosure is making sure line managers are equipped and supported to have these conversations and to consider making reasonable adjustments when necessary. [Mind]


Sometimes people who have mental health problems are treated worse at work because of their mental health condition. This is called discrimination and, if you experience discrimination at work, you may have a legal right to challenge it. [Mind]


Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a fairly new treatment that can reduce post-traumatic symptoms such as being easily startled. It involves making rhythmic eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. The rapid eye movements are intended to create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories and experiences while you’re sleeping. [Mind]


Fit Note

A Fit Note (or The Statement for Fitness for Work), is a medical statement that GPs or hospital doctors issue. It aims to focus on what an employee may be able do at work rather than what they cannot do. If a period of absence due to sickness (this includes mental health problems) lasts longer than seven calendar days (regardless of how many days they work each week) then a worker must provide their employer with a fit note. [Acas]

Flexible working

There are many forms of flexible working. It can describe a place of work, for example homeworking, or a type of contract, such as a temporary contract. Other common variations include: part time working, flexitime, job sharing and shift work. Requests for flexible working should be in writing stating the date of the request and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application. Although employees with less than 26 weeks service do not have a statutory right to request flexible working, some employers may allow all staff to make a request. [Acas]


Holiday entitlement

Once an employee starts work, details of holidays and holiday pay entitlement should be found in the employee's written contract, where there is one, or a written statement of employment particulars given to employees by their employer. Most workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year (this is known as statutory entitlement). [Acas]



Mindfulness is a technique which can help people manage their mental health or simply gain more enjoyment from life. It involves making a special effort to give your full attention to what is happening in the present moment – to what's happening in your body, your mind or your surroundings, for example – in a non-judgemental way. Mindfulness describes a way of approaching our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them and react differently to them. [Mind]


Panic attacks

Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They're an exaggeration of your body's normal response to danger, stress or excitement. [Mind]

Performance management

Managing the performance of employees is a continuous process. It involves making sure that employee performances contribute to both team goals and those of the business as a whole. The aim is to continuously improve the performance of individuals and that of the organisation. Good performance management is central to the relationship between managers and employees and helps everyone in the organisation. [Acas]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such as 'shell shock'. But it's not only diagnosed in soldiers – a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD. [Mind]


Presenteeism means turning up for work when unwell, resulting in a loss of productivity. Presenteeism, or sickness presence, could account for as much, if not more, of a loss in productivity than sickness absence. It can also adversely affect general staff morale and contribute to longer recovery periods from illness. [Acas]


Reasonable adjustments

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs. This applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners.

Reasonable adjustments could include changing the recruitment process so a candidate can be considered for a job; doing things another way, such as allowing someone with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking; making physical changes to the workplace, like installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or an audio-visual fire alarm for a deaf person; changing their equipment, for instance providing a special keyboard if they have arthritis; allowing employees who become disabled to make a phased return to work, including flexible hours or part-time working; or offering employees training opportunities, recreation and refreshment facilities. []


Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If a worker is absent for four or more days in a row they may qualify for SSP (Statutory Sick Pay). It is payable for 28 weeks. To qualify, a worker must earn at least the Lower Earning Limit. Since April 2018, the rate for SSP has been £92.05 per week. The amount is reviewed every April. Some employers may offer contractual sick pay. It cannot be less than SSP. If an employer offers contractual sick pay, it should include the rate of sick pay and how long it is payable for in the terms and conditions of employment. [Acas]


There's no medical definition of stress, and healthcare professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them. This can make it difficult for you to work out what causes your feelings of stress, or how to deal with them. Stress can be caused by situations or events that put pressure on us – for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don't have much control over what happens. It could also include our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with. Whatever your personal definition of stress is, it's likely that you can learn to manage it better. [Mind]

Suicidal feelings

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life. Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life, or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide, or making clear plans to take your own life. But you are not alone. Many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime. [Mind]



Mental wellbeing describes your mental state - how you are feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life. Our mental wellbeing is dynamic. It can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to month or year to year. [Mind]