Are you ready to talk about mental health and employment?
The COVID-19 pandemic had wide-ranging and significant effects on society. Remote working is still a major part of society, while lockdown restrictions are in place. Many people have suffered from the continuing effects of isolation.
Employers and the workplace need to support employees’ mental health, especially with workers working an average of 37 hours per workweek1, even though Zoom allows them to do so via video.
Employers have a duty to ensure the safety and mental health of their employees. If this is not done, they could be subject to a range of claims from employees.
If the employee is suffering from a recognized psychiatric disorder, there is a foreseeable risk to their mental health, or the employer fails to take reasonable steps to reduce or prevent that risk, a work-related stress claim may be successful.
Employees with severe mental health problems and are considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010 may also file disability discrimination claims against their employer. These claims can be made directly, indirectly, harassing, discriminatory, and/or victimizing.
Employers can prevent claims by reviewing their policies and procedures regarding mental health, equal opportunity, and stress at work regularly and training employees about those policies.
Employers might also consider offering a dedicated counselling line or asking staff to become mental first aiders.
Employers should be ready to adjust working conditions to accommodate a person with mental health issues, if necessary.
Reasonable adjustments can take many forms and will depend on the individual and the support needed in the circumstances.
Employers might consider making reasonable adjustments such as allowing employees to take time off to go to counselling or medical appointments, allowing employees to return to work after being off sick with mental health issues, supporting employees with a managed workload, changing the hours or allowing for a more flexible working schedule.
There are many organizations that can help employers understand the adjustments needed. These include ACAS, occupational healthcare providers, and the Access to Work scheme run by the government.
A supportive environment
Employees can feel reassured by a supportive work environment that mental health issues do not have to be taboo. Employers should encourage open communication and communication about mental illness. Employees should also know that they will be provided with the necessary support.
Employers should encourage their employees to consider mental and physical health equally important and ensure that workplace policies reflect this.
Employees can get the support they need by meeting with their managers regularly, arranging mental awareness training, or appointing mental health champions.
Employers should take mental health seriously. This will ensure that everyone thrives, makes a business profitable, attracts new talent, and keeps the company afloat.
The past 10 months have been difficult, and people are being forced to continue isolating. It’s important for employers to regularly check-in with their employees to ensure that their policies regarding mental health are up to date.
Paul Kelly is Head Of Employment at Blacks Solicitors.