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Mental health at work and how employers may deal with it

06 February 2020
Mental health at work and how employers may deal with it

Mental health is spoken about more than ever now and rightly so. You now see celebrities talking very openly about their experiences of dealing with a mental health issue.

Many employees suffer from mental health, this could be due to work or personal life. An issue can happen suddenly, because of a specific event in an employee’s life, or it can build up gradually over time.

If an employee has a mental health issue, it is important that as an employer, you take it seriously. Try talking to the employee to find out what support they might need at work and how you can help them.

There are many types of mental health issue, such as:

  • Stress (this is not classed as a medical condition, but may still have a impact on an employee’s wellbeing)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • schizophrenia

What’s the law?

As an employer, you have a duty care towards your employees, so you must do all you “reasonably” can to support the employees’ wellbeing. As an employer, you can consider supporting an employee in many ways such as:

  • ensuring that the working environment is safe
  • protect the employee from discrimination
  • carry our risk assessments, if required

A mental health issue can be considered a disability if the impairment has a substantial and long term (usually at least 12 months or expected to last at least 12 months), adverse effect of the employee’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities ( (for example, interacting with people, following instructions or keeping to set working times).

A mental health issue can be considered a disability even if there are not symptoms all the time.

If an employee has a disability, employers:

  • must not discriminate against them because of their disability; and
  • must consider making reasonable adjustments.

Speak openly about mental health

With celebrities opening up about their mental health issues, it has encouraged many others to do the same and employees should also feel that they can speak to their employer’s openly without the fear of losing their job.

If staff feel they can talk openly about mental health, it is more likely that amicable solutions can be found, which may result in less time off for a mental health issue and improved morale in the workplace.

Employers should create an environment where staff feel able to talk openly about mental health. Some actions that employers could take are:

  • making sure employees have regular 1-2-1’s with their line mangers to talk about any problems that they are having; and
  • encouraging positive mental health, this could take form of a forum, training, workshop or even appointing a member of staff, who staff could talk to in confidence.
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