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Mental Health in the Workplace: How Can Employers Look After Their Workforces' Mental Health?

Feb 06, 2019
by Kimberley Wallace, Consultant
0333 400 7920 | kim@employassisthr.co.uk

In our first two blogs of this series we have looked at what mental health is and why mental health should matter to employers

In today’s blog we take a look at the essential practices that businesses should have in place relating to mental health to better support their employees wellbeing and to avoid discriminating against those with mental health issues.

Personal Group found that 40% of UK workplaces do not offer any mental health support for staff and 66% of UK employees feel that their employers do not offer sufficient mental health support. This illustrates the gap between the support employees are expecting from their employers, and the assistance they receive in reality. 

In yesterday’s blog we also looked at how many employees feel unable to talk to their employers about their own mental health and how UK workplaces can be more supportive.

Below we have created a useful reference checklist of essential practices that employers should have in place (or if not, should be implementing):

Health Awareness

  • Understanding any pre-existing mental health conditions will be critical in helping you support employees with underlying challenges and being aware of risks or stressors which could trigger their symptoms. Use pre-employment medical questionnaires so employees can inform you of any historic or current mental health conditions they have. Where needed or requested by the employee, businesses should make reasonable adjustments to the job or workplace.
  • Complete a stress at work risk assessment for your workplace (see HSE website for a helpful template) and act to reduce and avoid risks. Where an individual has identified a mental health condition on their pre-employment questionnaire, make time to meet with them to see if any reasonable adjustments are required to their role or to the environment they will be working in.

Absence Support

  • Support any employees who are on mental health related long-term absences by maintaining regular contact with them (if appropriate). This will help them feel supported and included. Make any reasonable adjustments required to enable their return to work.
  • Do not discourage or shame staff from taking short-term absences related to mental health for example a few days off for stress or depression. Being accepting and supportive of occasional short-term mental health related absences, could mean that an individual is less likely to be absent from the workplace long-term.
  • Avoid Discrimination
  • Create a positive workplace culture where it is socially acceptable to discuss mental health challenges. Opt into initiatives such as Time To Change.
  • Offer training to line managers to increase their mental health awareness and their knowledge on how to manage and support those with mental health issues.
  • Ensure internal processes like recruitment and absence management are not discriminatory towards those with mental health conditions. Very often businesses will treat the management of physical illnesses and absences very differently from the way they manage mental illnesses and absences. If this is true for your business then you are most likely discriminating against those with mental health conditions.

Essential Support

  • Access telephone helplines if you have concerns about an individual staff member’s unusual behaviours or actions. Your interventions may save someone’s life.
  • Read and use free toolkits and resources available from various mental health charities. In Blog #5 we will provide a list of helpful resources for businesses.
  • Speak to a qualified Mental Health First Aider if you have any concerns or questions about your employees.

In tomorrow’s blog we look at how employers can go above and beyond these mental health essentials to create a proactive and positive culture towards supporting and embracing employee mental health and wellbeing.

If you have any questions about our Mental Health blog series, if you have any concerns for your employees, or if you want to discuss mental health support at work, please contact EmployAssist. Kim and Ezra from the EmployAssist team are qualified Mental Health First Aiders.