Mental Health At Work: Do You Know Your Responsibilities As An Employer?

In Business, Employee Benefits, Mental Health by Paul Connolly

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the workplace. Now a person is considered disabled under the act if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a “substantial” and “long-term” negative effect on their normal day-to-day activities.

A mental health issue is classed as a disability if:

  • It lasts, or is likely to last, 12 months or more.
  • It affects a person’s ability to do something they would normally do in a regular day e.g. use a computer, work set times or interact with people.

So a mental health issue that meets these criteria is considered a disability and employers have a legal duty to help employees in these situations overcome any disadvantages they face.

Furthermore, employers also have a duty of care when it comes to the health and safety of their staff, which includes taking reasonable care to prevent issues surrounding mental health in the workplace from occurring.

In other words, ignoring stress-related symptoms and other mental ill health indicators is not an option for employers.

Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act also states that employers must make reasonable adjustments for individuals suffering with a mental health issue. Failure to do so could count as discrimination. But what are reasonable adjustments?

Well, a reasonable adjustment is where an employer makes a change to an employee’s role or environment to make things easier for them (the employee).

Examples of reasonable adjustments for employees with mental health problems might include:

  • Flexible working or adjustments to shifts
  • Working from home
  • Change of workspace
  • Absence rules or limits adjustments
  • Paid time off for therapy, counselling & other support
  • Workload amendments

More information on reasonable adjustments is available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website [here].

Review your wellness strategy

As well as making reasonable adjustments, employers can also help safeguard the mental health of their staff by being proactive when it comes to training and implementing products and services designed to improve mental health in the workplace.

Managers should receive appropriate training in communication, managing performance, providing feedback and setting achievable targets. Being able to identify poor mental health in the workplace as early as possible is also a very important skill managers need to learn.

Moreover, because it’s difficult for employees to disclose mental health issues, it is essential that open and honest communication is supported and championed by the organisation’s most senior leaders.

There are a number of products and services that can help promote better mental health in the workplace, including:

  • Employee assistance programmes – can help resolve problems that are affecting an employee’s work.
  • Occupational health services – designed to help prevent work-related illness and injury, and get individuals back to work in a suitable role as quickly as possible.
  • Group critical illness cover – provides financial support in the form of a one-off payment to an employee if they are diagnosed with a qualifying critical illness.
  • Group income protection – helps protect both employer and employee from the financial consequences of long-term absence. It provides an income to staff if they experience a long-term illness and allows managers to take advantage of comprehensive claims-management services.

Find out how Premier Choice can help you safeguard your employees’ mental health. Contact us today and let’s have a conversation on this extremely important topic.

I joined Premier Choice Group as a Healthcare & Protection Consultant in 2017, where I now look after the needs of over 200 clients nationwide. Prior to joining the Premier Choice Group, I worked for a large Private Healthcare Insurer, VitalityHealth, and managed SME and Individual clients across the country.