Last week was National Stress Awareness Day, and is a good way to remind employers they should be ensuring the welfare of their employees, in particular their stress levels and overall mental health. Employers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure they aren’t discriminating against staff, specifically because of their mental health. Reasonable adjustments, by altering working conditions, to help employees with a disability, including mental health problems is the law.
While many organisations understand the impact of mental health in the workplace, it can be challenging to create a mentally healthy working environment. There is a strong business case for getting it right on mental health in work. Eliminating stigma and discrimination in work is key. It requires a joined up approach and a genuine commitment to support staff, to make it okay to talk about mental health in work. There are a number of overlapping issues to consider.
A mentally healthy workplace means:
- taking care of staff
- nurturing a supportive environment for work
- ensuring everyone knows they have a responsibility to look after themselves and others
- the values and ethos of your organisation, from senior management – include welcoming people with mental health problems
- creating a culture that is inclusive and understanding of individual’s needs
One in four people per year will experience a mental health problem.
Healthy employees make for a healthy workplace. Creating the right culture involves many things but a good place to start is to make sure everybody in your workplace shares an equal understanding, awareness, sensitivity and respect of the importance of good mental health.
By nurturing a mentally healthy environment, attitudes and behaviour will change too – managers and staff will be in a better place to help and support anybody affected by mental health issues at work. Taking steps to encourage employees to disclose symptoms and concerns will enable managers to respond effectively to health concerns of staff under their care. This will not only help staff cope and stay well in work, but hopefully also reduce the time off needed – increasing productivity and improving staff morale.
If you require any advice regarding any of the issues covered in this blog please contact our employment law team.