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World Mental Health Day 10 October 2020 – Managing mental health issues in the workplace

09 October 2020

Statistics show that at least 1 in 4 people in the UK experience ill mental health (such as anxiety, depression, addiction and PTSD) each year. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to our daily lives and it is expected that the need for mental health support will increase over the coming months and years. Some workers may feel uncertain about their future livelihoods with the increasing risks of redundancy. Others may be experiencing social isolation after months of lockdown and working at home.

With World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October, now is a great time to remind employers of the steps they can take to help employees who are suffering from workplace stress or other mental health issues.

Mental health is not an issue on only one day of the year, of course, and employers should commit to promoting staff wellbeing all year round.

Some steps to take in doing so are to:

  • Introduce a policy highlighting the organisation’s commitment to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
  • Provide training to managers on how to recognise work related stress and mental ill health and how to promote their own mental wellbeing and that of colleagues
  • Promote a culture of open communication and ask that employees raise issues if they feel they are not coping.
  • Take account of stress and mental wellbeing when allocating working hours, overtime and workload
  • Introduce support services for staff affected or absent by reason of ill mental health - such as Occupational Health, counselling, mentors and mental-health first aiders.

It is recognised that staff should take steps to look after their mental health at work. Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure employees’ health is not put at risk by pressures or demands arising from work. They also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee with a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010, which includes both physical and mental impairments; and a duty not to discriminate against an employee because of their disability.

Investing in supporting employees with mental health issues can offer an element of protection in defending stress at work and disability discrimination claims, whilst also increasing productivity and wellbeing in the workforce – it’s a win-win.

If you would like to introduce a Stress and Mental Wellbeing policy in your workplace, or discuss any aspect of this blog, please contact a member of our Specialist Employment Law Team.

This update contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.

Employment law:

Caroline Carr, Partner: E: cac@bto.co.uk / T: 0141 225 5263
Laura Salmond, Partner: E: lis@bto.co.uk / T: 0141 225 5313
Jacqueline McCluskey, Partner: E: jmcc@bto.co.uk / T: 0131 222 2936
Douglas Strang, Senior Associate: E: dst@bto.co.uk / T: 0141 225 5271

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