Mental Health is the foundation for our healthandwellbeing. It gives us the ability to cope with every day pressures and manage change in our lives. The way staff are managed can impact significantly upon their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Mental ill-health or distress is a major cause of sickness absence from work, reduced productivity and staff turnover, stress is a biggest cause of a lot of mental ill-health, especially anxiety and depression. It makes good business sense to protect and promote the mental health of your employees.
Nearly 3 in every 10 employees will have a mental health problem in any one-year the great majority of which will be anxiety and depressive disorders. 91 million working days a year are lost to mental ill-health Stress and poor mental health can lead to low productivity, accidents, high staff turnover, poor working relationships, low morale and job dissatisfaction. Stress is the highest cause of absenteeism in the workplace after musculoskeletal disorders.
WHAT CAN AN EMPLOYER DO?
Employers also have legal obligations towards their staff. The main areas of legislation that relate to mental wellbeing in the workplace are:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASWA)
- Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
- Equality Act 2010.
Health and safety laws ensure workers have the right to work in a safe environment where risks to health and wellbeing are considered and dealt with efficiently. It also ensures a responsibility to cooperate with legislation. If the mental health condition has a substantial, long-term adverse effect on someone’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities then they will be covered by the Equality Act.
Note that disabled people don’t have to disclose that they have an impairment.
The Equality Act aims to end the discrimination that many people face on protected characteristics including disability in employment and other areas. The Equality Act replaces the Disability Discrimination Act.
- Devise and communicate a workplace policy on mental health to support both the employer and employee and outlining the organisations commitment to the health of its employees
- Raise awareness of mental wellbeing and reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health
- Make adjustments to the working environment, workload, hours, that adversely affects mental wellbeing, while the employee is at work or is returning to work after a mental illness.
- Develop action plans to promote mental and emotional wellbeing and reduce stress.
- Encourage early recognition of problems amongst the entire workforce
- Provide published systems of support
- Provide information and training e.g. train managers in Mental Health First Aid so they can recognise the signs and symptoms at an early stage.
- Introduce policies on work life balance options such as time of in lieu, job sharing and flexi time.
- Have an open door policy so the employee feels they will be listened to if they have a problem, creating a culture of openness.
- Carry out a stress audit and develop an effective plan of action, there are organisations who can help with this process.
BENEFITS OF PROMOTING GOOD MENTAL HEALTH
- Reduced staff turnover and better staff retention
- Increased productivity and performance
- Improved working relationships
- Increased self-worth and confidence
- Enhanced reputation as an employer
- Better employee engagement
- Improved morale
- Reduced sick absence
SOURCES OF SUPPORT
Lifeline: 0808 808 8000
Disability employment helpline: 0800 528 0462
Health and Safety Executive (EMAS) Employment Medical Advisory Service: www.hse.gov.uk
Employment Service Access to Work Scheme www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview Health and Safety Executive – Stress Management Standards ￼www.hse.gov.uk
Aware Defeat Depression www.aware-ni.org
Action Mental Health www.amh.org.uk
Equality commission www.equalityni.org