13 October 2017 #Employment
The 10th October marked World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme was ‘mental health in the workplace’.
An estimated 1 in 4 adults will struggle with a mental health issue at some point in their lives, however according to studies, 85% of people believed there to be a stigma attached to mental health issues and stress in the workplace, with 58% admitting they wouldn’t feel comfortable telling their manager of their struggles.
Mental illness can not only be isolating and terrifying for the individual suffering, the business case for workplace interventions is also compelling. £8.4 billion a year is spent on sickness absence related to mental illness and up to 70 million working days every year are lost as a result, including one in seven directly caused by a person’s work or working conditions. HR departments and employers should be aware of best practice in identifying and supporting individuals with these illnesses, as well as becoming a vital conduit for support and information as we try to change attitudes and engage workforces to the importance of this issue.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that the first step for employers is to identify risks posed to employees. There are 6 areas of work that can have a negative impact on employees’ mental health if not properly managed. These areas include:
When stress is unmanaged and an individual perceives a lack of control, or when demand exceeds resource, it may tip them over the edge. Stress may be deemed a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and once an employer is on notice of an employee’s stress, the legal duty to make reasonable adjustments may kick in. For example, ensuring a project is suitably staffed so that an individual is not working around the clock over a lengthy period and thus able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Coinciding with these growing concerns, ACAS has published a new guidance booklet on Promoting Positive Mental Health in the Workplace as well as two smaller online guides (i) Dealing with Stress in the Workplace; and (ii) Managing Staff Experiencing Mental Ill Health. This guidance provides tips for employers on how to identify, mitigate and adapt to mental health issues within workplaces. Key tips and measures that can be implemented to help include:
Additionally, the mental health charity MIND has created a compelling report ‘Getting ahead: why mental health at work matters’. The report is a collection of perspectives from senior business leaders across London's private, public and voluntary sectors, detailing why they view mental health as a business priority and a strategic leadership issue. The collection also includes practical examples on what organisations are doing to support the mental health of their staff, with contributions from Facebook UK, HSBC, Comic Relief and KPMG.
Culture change is vital. Educating the workforce through training and positive actions is fundamental to such change. The mental well-being of the workforce ultimately affects the well-being of the business and its bottom-line. For more information regarding the issues raised in this article please contact our employment team.