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Mental Health in the Workplace: What can you do to support your employees?

Principal Solicitor, Paul McGowan

Majority of workplace ill health absences connected to mental health

In 2019/2020 the Health and Safety Executive reported that, 51% of all work-related ill-health cases were linked to stress, depression, and anxiety. This resulted in a loss of 55% working days due to poor mental health. This highlights the prevalence of mental health issues amongst employees, the effect the workplace can have in deteriorating individual’s mental health and the subsequent impact on productivity and business efficiency.

Whilst there has been an increased awareness and dialogue surrounding mental health in recent years, this has uncovered staggering statistics of people suffering from mental health conditions, either pre-existing or work induced. Many employers, including the likes of Amnesty International, Fujitsu and the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Intelligence department, have adopted measures to support employees and encourage open discussion about mental health in the workplace.

However, the general consensus remains, many employers still need to better address the mental health issue, taking a more proactive approach to create a more supportive working environment.

1 in 6 workers report experiencing a mental health condition in any given week

According to a report published by the mental health charity MIND, in June 2020 1 in 6 workers reported to suffer from a mental health condition in any given week in England, and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem told their manager. Not only is this particularly challenging for the individual, but it can also have an impact on an individual’s ability to perform at work. It is to no surprise that businesses perform better, can generate greater output when their staff are focused, content and motivated.

Workers may experience significant pressures and stresses either both at work or in their personal lives or a combination of both. The most common mental health problems suffered by individuals, include (but are not limited to): anxiety, work-related stress, and depression. These conditions can result in a number of symptoms and effects that can impact an individual’s ability, motivation and productivity to perform.

What should employers be doing?

Employers need to promote a culture in the workplace that signifies to their employees that mental health matters and if employees feel comfortable to speak up about their experiences, support will be given. This cultural change will not happen overnight, but overtime, an employer who remains consistently supportive, caring, and open to their employees will eventually create a work culture where employees can trust that their mental health will be supported and addressed.

Managers have a big role to play in creating this kind of environment for workers, and regular training on mental health in the workplace may be something your organisation considers. It is important for managers to be approachable, supportive and normalise conversations about mental health. Work is often a highly stressful factor in people’s lives, and therefore can be a cause or be a contributing factor to an individual’s poor mental health. Managers should have regular conversations with their employees to discuss circumstances, workload, and potential mental health issues. The more mental health is discussed and widely acknowledged within an organisation, the hope is that people will feel more comfortable to speak up and seek support.

It is important to address employees’ mental health, not only to create a better working environment and ensure greater productivity of workers, but also to ensure that employers comply with their legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This duty extends to individual’s mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, some employees suffering from a long-term mental health condition, may be considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore reasonable adjustments may be required. To reiterate the fundamentals, open dialogue and greater awareness of mental health in the workplace can help employers manage their legal duties whilst also creating a good working environment.

Do you want further tips and guidance?

Following a research study by Mind, the Charity found that “56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.” If you, like many employers do, want to find out more about mental health, how to manage and support employees in the workplace and what steps you can take, then take a look at our Mental Health in the Workplace webinar!

Collingwood Legal are running a Mental Health in the Workplace Webinar with Jeremy Thomas, a renowned author and speaker on mental health issues on Thursday 17 June 2021. For further details and to sign up for the event, please click here.

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