Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace – 3/3
10th October, 2018
In the lead up to World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2018, we have been posting a series of short articles discussing mental health and stress in the workplace.
In this final article, we will be providing tips, to employers and employees, for managing stress and dealing with mental ill health in the workplace.
What can employers do?
Employers can take steps to promote a culture of good mental health and to help minimise the risks of employment related mental ill health (and increased risk of claims).
i. Managing Stress
Employers should consider the impact of workplace stress. Employers may decide to:
• Carry out a stress audit. This could involve asking employees to list any stress related concerns.
• Employers are under a common law duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. Employers should carry out risk assessments of the health and safety risks that employees are exposed to whilst at work, which would include an assessment of work-related stress.
• Implement an anti-stress policy. The policy should highlight that the employer is committed to taking work-related stress seriously. The policy should also set out, for example:
o the role and expectations of managers and supervisors to ensure the successful implementation of the policy;
o guidance on resolving cases of stress at work (for both the employer and the employee); and
o any internal and external sources of support available for employees who may be suffering from stress (e.g. a confidential helpline and/or an occupational health service).
Employers need to ensure that the policy is properly implemented in practice.
• Train managers to recognise situations which are likely to cause stress, to identify symptoms of stress, how they should manage stress and promote an appropriate culture etc.
• Conduct return-to-work interviews following a period of sickness absence and performance appraisals. This will help to identify any underlying stress-related work absences or performance issues.
ii. Dealing with Mental Ill Health
A survey produced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that “less than half of respondents report that their organisation supports employees who experience mental health problems very well or fairly well, while 1 in 5 (20%) say that their organisation supports such employees not very well or not at all. Almost 3 respondents in 10 (28%) don’t know how well their employer supports people who experience mental health problems.”
Employers need to do more to ensure that employees feel supported with their mental health and should encourage open channels of communication.
Acas suggests that employers could develop action plans to help promote positive mental health. The action plan may include:
• The employer’s objectives in relation to mental health and why it is committed to promoting mental health.
• Arranging training to educate employees and managers to help remove any stigma surrounding mental ill health.
• Putting in place support mechanisms for employees experiencing mental ill health. For example, having nominated mental health first aiders in the workplace.
• Drafting a mental health policy and reviewing existing policies to ensure that employees and managers know where they can obtain support.
Managers should be trained to spot the signs of ill mental health, including changes in an employee’s usual behaviour; changes in their standard of work; being withdrawn and showing less enthusiasm/interest in tasks and increased sickness absence. Managers should not make assumptions and they should regularly ask employees about their wellbeing; and create an open and approachable environment.
Employers should identify areas of the workforce which may be a cause of mental ill health. For example, employers should hold return-to-work interviews (as above) to identify the reason(s) for an employee’s absence.
Employers also need to consider whether reasonable adjustments should be provided to employees to support them during periods of mental ill health. Employers should consult with employees prior to making any adjustments to establish what support and/or changes they need. Any adjustments should be documented and regularly reviewed.
Although support mechanisms may be at a cost to the employer, in the long term they may help to reduce sickness levels which will ultimately save costs on sickness pay, increase workplace productivity, and reduce the possibility of costly claims.
What can employees do?
If an employee feels that he/she has is suffering from mental ill health or he/she is suffering from workplace stress, then he/she should raise this with his/her line manager, HR Manager or somebody else within the workplace. This will give the employer a better understanding of the employee’s position which will allow it to make any necessary adjustments to support those experiencing mental ill health or workplace stress.
Our employment law expert, Claire Brook, will be conducting three master classes dealing with mental health in the workplace on 21 November 2018 and 6 February 2019 at our offices in Chester. For further information and to secure your place, please email: [email protected].
For more information on the master classes regarding mental health in the workplace, please see the event listings below: