Looking after employees' mental wellbeing at work

Looking after employees' mental wellbeing at work

Updated Treasury Direction on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The turbulence of the last four years has caused an increase in mental health issues. This has translated into employers seeing rising numbers of employee absences due to poor mental health. This is why it is more important than ever for employers to not only recognise when an employee is struggling, but to be able to know how to deal with it in an appropriate way.

The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination based on various protected characteristics, including disability. Depending on the severity, mental health issues can constitute disabilities under the Equality Act. Employers must ensure that no employee is subjected to detrimental treatment because of a disability and must make reasonable adjustments to support employees with certain mental health conditions.

As a starting point, employers should take a preventative approach to mental health issues in the workplace. Among other things, this means cultivating a workplace where employees feel comfortable talking about mental health concerns, and where the employer is well equipped to deal with these concerns as they arise. Taking this preventative approach could help avoid lengthy absences from work among the workforce, as well as preventing any existing issue from becoming much worse.

In practical terms, employers should look to introduce ways to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace. This could involve implementing training for managers, training certain staff to act as mental health champions or first aiders and introducing policies to ensure employees have a clear route to resolution if they are experiencing stress or a similar mental health issue.

Sadly, sometimes preventative measures are not effective when an employee is suffering with a severe mental health condition, meaning it might be necessary for the employee to take time away from work to recover.

When this happens, it is of critical importance that the business deals with the employee’s return to the workplace in a sensitive manner and implements reasonable adjustments where necessary. It will be important to discuss what a reasonable adjustment might look like with the employee. However, commonly adjustments such as flexible working, reduced duties and phased returns to work are helpful in this situation.

Employers should be alive to mental health issues and how these can manifest themselves. They should also look to create an environment where employees feel safe discussing mental health issues. Where an employee is struggling with a mental health issue, the employer should look to introduce adjustments, if reasonable and necessary.

This article was first published in in Employee Benefits and can be accessed here

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