Posted by Pip Galland, Associate
Managing mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
The reality is that all employees are likely to suffer with their mental health during the course of their working lives; as they juggle work alongside their ever changing personal and family commitments.
With research showing that mental ill health costs UK businesses £42 billion each year, many employers are implementing “wellbeing strategies” to improve business culture and working environments. Employees after all are at the centre of your business and their wellbeing is to key to sustaining high levels of engagement and productivity.
To mark “mental health awareness week” (14 -20 May 2018) what can you do as an Employer to actively support and promote workplace wellbeing?
We are running a seminar on managing mental health in the workplace with Bath Mind on 17 May 2018:
Why should you be concerned about workplace wellbeing?
Recent statistics suggest that mental health problems are the leading cause of absence from work in the UK, but that stigma is often a barrier to people getting the help they need at work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, employees are least likely to talk to a supervisor or their HR department about mental health issues that may be affecting them at work.
So what are your obligations as an Employer?
Employers have duties to assess the risk of stress related ill health arising from work activities and to take measures to control that risk.
- There is an implied contractual duty of mutual trust and confidence. Failing to manage mental ill health correctly could result in a breach of this.
- An employer has obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to prevent disability discrimination and make reasonable adjustments.
- An employee with 2 years service or more has the right not to be unfairly dismissed due to their mental health issues.
There is a duty to provide a safe place and system of work – and to prevent a reasonably foreseeable risk of physical and mental injury to an employee
Spotting the Signs
Mental health problems affect people in different ways. The Mental Health Foundation identifies four common signs in the workplace:
- emotional: employees may seem irritable, sensitive to criticism, seem to lose their sense of humour.
- cognitive: an employee may make more mistakes than usual, indecisiveness and an inability to concentrate. Look out for sudden or unusual decreases in performance.
- behavioural: begins arriving late, taking unofficial days off, not hitting deadlines and generally acting out of character.
- business: looking at the bigger picture, consider whether there have been increased absences or staff turnover. Has there been a general drop in motivation or productivity levels?
Remember! Spotting some of these signs does not automatically mean there is an underlying mental health issue. Instead understanding the signs and talking to employees will mean you are taking proactive steps to support workplace wellbeing.
It may not always be possible to identify the cause of the mental health issue, but creating an open and supportive culture helps in prevention:
- have a Mental Health Policy which supports this culture
- openly encourage conversations in the workplace about mental ill health
- use internal communication such as staff newsletters to educate on mental health issues and their impact
- anonymous staff surveys are useful in checking wellbeing, stress levels and generally how people are feeling.
- make sure your working practices embody good mental health. Encourage staff to take breaks and get out of the office to reduce stress.
- train your managers on mental health issues to spot uncharacteristic behaviour and feel comfortable when faced with mental health related problems.
Tip: create a peer-to-peer support system so that employees can talk with colleagues of the same level about their concerns. These peers should be trained to give informal advice and general chats.
- Focus on culture: be confident and comfortable talking about mental health.
- Have a specific and effective Mental Health Policy and ensure your managers are trained.
- Good mental health is vital for business performance.
- People who feel autonomous and in control over their work are happier and more engaged.
For more details on mental health in the workplace and how you can support your workforce, please contact Pip Galland on:
01225 730 100 Email us
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