As the UK emerges from the Covid pandemic, it would be easy for employers to become complacent about mental health in the workplace. However, other pressures such as the cost-of-living crisis, events in the news and other stresses specific to individuals highlights the need for mental health awareness to remain a priority.
Mental Health Awareness Week is 9 – 15 May 2022 and is a good time for employers to engage with staff and consider what they can do to support good mental health in their workplaces. Matthew Ottley has put together some useful points.
The mental health charity Mind has conducted research into mental health in the workplace and reports the following:
- 21% of employees agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress affected them;
- 14% agreed they had resigned and 42% considered resigning when asked how workplace stress affected them;
- 30% disagreed with the statement, ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’;
- 56% of employers said they’d like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training/guidance.
Furthermore, around 15% of UK workers have symptoms of an existing mental health condition and 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, with a cost to the economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion annually.
Disabled employees and the duty to make reasonable adjustments
Employees with long-term mental health conditions (such as depression or severe anxiety) may meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010 if they have an impairment that has a “substantial, adverse and long-term impact on their ability to carry out day to day activities.”
When an employer is informed or considers that an employee might be disabled within this definition, they have additional obligations to consider and where appropriate, make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s working conditions. It is important to remember that the duty applies from when an employer becomes aware or should be aware that the employee is disabled.
Ways to prioritise mental health at work
To build a workplace culture that values mental health and wellbeing, it is wise to adopt a strategy that promotes the wellbeing of all staff, tackles the underlying causes of work-related mental health problems and supports staff who are experiencing mental health problems.
A key step for a business seeking to improve how they address work-related mental health concerns is to produce and implement a mental health at work plan or handbook policy that draws on views from across the organisation, especially senior leaders and line managers, who will play a key role in supporting staff experiencing mental health problems. This should be regularly reviewed to identify the factors that are affecting mental health in the particular workplace context.
It is also important that information about mental health is easily accessible to all employees both online and in the office. As such, it would be a good idea for employers to make any mental health policy and information about services that offer support available both online and, in the office, for example as posters. Promoting an open culture within appropriate bounds and encouraging line managers to have regular catch ups with employees about their health and wellbeing and whether they feel any improvements are needed is also beneficial.
Employers should promote a positive culture by providing employees with opportunities for development and encouraging a healthy work/life balance.
For more information on how employers can support good mental health in the workplace, or for any employment issues related to mental health, please contact Matthew Ottley on 0161 475 7663 or [email protected]