Mental Health Awareness Week – Employment Law
13th May 2019 marked the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Many of us will be affected either directly or indirectly by mental ill health, with recent Government statistics suggesting that one in four of us will experience issues with mental health during our lives.
Promoting positive mental health at work is therefore really important and not just because it’s beneficial for employees but also because it can have big advantages for employers. That’s because studies have shown that staff that have positive mental health tend to be more productive in their work and are more adaptable to changes in the workplace. It has also been shown that where staff are supported with their mental health by their employer they often require less time off work or feel able to return sooner where absence is required, reducing the overall number of long-term absences in an organisation.
Employers should therefore make time to promote positive mental health at work and commit to improving the mental health of their employees where possible.
There are a number of ways that employers can go about promoting positive mental health. For example, ACAS suggests:
1. They can start by identifying why they are committed to promoting positive mental health and work on putting together a mental health policy, which should be communicated clearly to all staff.
2. Work should be done to educate staff and managers around mental health issues to try and remove the stigma of mental ill health and to help with spotting early signs of mental ill health.
3. Support should be put in place for those staff members experiencing mental ill health.
It’s not just important to promote positive mental health because of the advantages involved, however. Employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees and should also be mindful of whether an employee’s mental ill health amounts to a disability, such that they are covered by the protections offered in the Equality Act 2010. Where an employee’s mental health condition has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, this may constitute a disability. Employers may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees suffering with mental health conditions and undertaking the steps set out above will help employers identify where support is needed and may even offer practical solutions they may not have otherwise thought of.
There is lots of support out there for both employees and employers. ACAS, for instance, have recently published a new and helpful mental health framework for employers, employees and line managers. Further information about the ACAS framework and details of various sources offering support with mental health issues can be found here.
You may also wish to get some legal advice about your obligations if you’re an employer or your rights if you’re an employee. At Cartwright King we’re experts in Employment law. If you want to have a confidential conversation to see whether we can assist you please contact our Employment law team here.
All advice is correct at time of publication.