Mental Health in the Workplace. Your obligations.

As an employer, it may be easy to dismiss managing mental health as yet another fluffy HR principle. One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point.  Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems and often occur as a reaction to common life events such as a relationship breakdown, ill-health or bereavement as well as stressful situations at work. As an employer, you have specific legal duties to manage mental health in the workplace.

Reducing Stress at Work.

The Health & Safety Executive ‘HSE’ defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’

Employees feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues. Common sources of stress include bullying at work, or not having the skills or time to meet tight deadlines.  

Work-related stress may result in mental health problems when it is experienced over a longer time. This can lead to long term mental health problems and entitle the employee to claim compensation from their employer for the injury.

As a result, the HSE require employers with five employees or more to carry out a written stress risk assessment and take action to minimise any risks. Taking steps to minimise stress may involve reviewing workflows and providing training. If an individual is complaining of stress at work then it is a good idea to carry out an individual assessment using the tools and advice found on the HSE website.

Use scheduled work meetings, appraisals or informal chats at work  to find out more about any problems your staff may be having and to help you identify- and reduce – any causes for concern.

Managing a person with a Mental Health condition.

Most people who have ongoing mental health problems continue to work successfully. But where an employee has a condition which is said to have a long-term, substantial and adverse effect on an individual’s day-to-day activities then an employer will have specific duties under the Equality Act 2010.

People with mental health problems should be treated in exactly the same way as any other member of staff, unless they ask for help or demonstrate clear signs that they need support. It is discriminatory to make assumptions about people’s capabilities, their promotability or the amount of sick leave they may need because of their illness and treat them less favourably than others because of it.

If an employee is placed at a disadvantage in the workplace due to their condition, then as a manager you are required to be flexible and to put in place reasonable adjustments.  This may involve a number of measures, including adjusting working hours or duties. It is appropriate to seek advice from the employee’s GP, an occupational health specialist and Access to Work when drawing up agreements as to what adjustments will assist the employee.  

How you can help.

As a manager, you may have employees who experience mental health difficulties. As soon as you notice that an employee is having mental health difficulties, talk to them as putting in place support  can help prevent them becoming more unwell. If the person does not want to speak to you, suggest they speak to someone else, for example someone from your employee assistance programme, occupational health or their GP.

If an employee goes off sick, lack of contact or involvement from their manager may mean they feel isolated, forgotten or unable to return leading to claims of constructive dismissal.  Therefore it is important to check in with them regularly to keep them informed about what is going on, including social events and providing reassurance. When they are ready, you should discuss their return to work and reintegration into the workplace beforehand and develop a plan so they can ease into work again before returning to their normal duties.

Prevention is better than Cure.

If you want to know more about your obligations towards employees, we recommend you take advice from an employment specialist  or mental health charity. Did you know there is a unique benefit that you can offer which helps build employees resilience to stress and improve their mental health?

At social circle, we pride ourselves on looking after our members physical and psychological well-being through our diverse range of fun activities for individuals who want to connect with other like-minded professionals.

Our Wellbeing package allows employers to provide this unique benefit which allows employees the freedom to enjoy their downtime. Do contact us for more information.