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View profile for Leanne Day
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Saturday 10th October marks World Mental Health Day for 2020, and this year in particular has been a difficult one for many reasons.  The months of lockdown and the changes that have followed have had a huge impact on both employers and employees, whether it's those who have been furloughed, working from home or key workers, or employers having to adjust their working practices.  This is affecting our mental health and wellbeing and may continue to do so for some time yet.  

What can employers do?

Employers need to ensure that they are taking steps to address the impacts of mental health in the workplace.  Employees can struggle with their mental health as a result of a number of reasons, whether that be a pre-existing mental health illness, the impacts of the Coronavirus, or work-related stress.

It is good practice for an employer to have a mental health policy in place.  This policy can cover a number of areas and include, for example:

  • a statement of the employer's commitment to addressing mental health in the workplace to include their values and beliefs, as well as a statement of their legal obligations;
  • a definition of stress and mental health and how it can affect someone at work;
  • a section stating what the employer will do to address mental health issues, such as training, carrying out risk assessments or being flexible;
  • a statement regarding who is responsible for implementing the policy and who to approach with any issues;
  • the process to be followed if any concerns arise; and,
  • a statement of confidentiality. 

Having a policy in place can help to demonstrate commitment towards mental health in the workplace and provide a framework for dealing with any issues which may occur.  

Many employers are now opting to have a designated mental health first aider who is trained in supporting employees and addressing any mental health issues in the workplace.  This shows commitment to their employees and can help to reduce any effects on the business. For example, if an employee is able to receive the support they need early on, this may reduce absences from work and help them to manage any symptoms so that they can continue to thrive in their role. 

Employers should also talk to their employees if they notice they are struggling to see how they can help and to prevent their symptoms from worsening, where possible.  If the employee doesn’t feel comfortable talking to them, then they could be referred to their GP, a counselling service or an occupational health team. 

Employers have a legal responsibility to help and support their employees and any mental health issues resulting from work or being aggravated by work should be risk assessed, with reasonable and practicable steps being taken to eliminate or reduce the risk to employees.

In some instances, a mental health condition can amount to a disability if it has a substantial and long-term (usually 12 months or more) adverse effect on the person's ability to carry out normal day to day activities.  Failing to make reasonable adjustments for those suffering with a mental health disability could potentially result in a claim being brought against their employer with no upper limit for the compensation which can be awarded.  It is therefore extremely important for employers to take mental health at work seriously and ensure they adopt an understanding and flexible approach to dealing with any concerns.

Contact us

If you are an employer who needs guidance with managing the impacts of mental health in the workplace or putting a policy in place, we are here to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact our friendly team on 01205 351114 or 01522 814638.