October 10th 2019 marks World Mental Health day, giving businesses an opportunity to start a conversation and spread awareness on the topic.
Mental health is a problem for many people across the UK. So much so, the NHS has reported that 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from some sort of mental health problem each year and for people suffering with these issues it is impossible not to carry them into the workplace.
The Role of Mental Health in the Workplace
Retention and attraction of highly skilled employees is a fundamental part of succeeding as a business; those who feel supported by their employer with regard to their mental health are likely display loyalty and recommend their employer to others. The mental health charity, Mind, recently carried out a study which found that 60% of employees said they would be likely to recommend their organisation as a good place of work if their employer took action to support their mental health.
Mental health problems have a strong correlation with low levels of employee satisfaction, which in turn link to low levels of productivity. Employees whose minds are preoccupied with external stresses are unable to perform tasks to their best ability and performance at work may fall below par. A 2015 study by the Social Market Foundation even found that employees who are happy at work are 20% more productive than those that aren’t.
Mental Health as a Disability
Many employees with mental health issues feel unsupported by their employer and are more inclined to leave their organisation, a statement that is supported by research from Mind which reports that 42% of employees with mental health issues considered resigning due to workplace stress, while 14% actually did resign for the same reason. These employees may feel that they are treated differently due to their mental health and stress-related problems and leave as a result, but there is a key point to highlight here.
The Equality Act 2010 classes certain mental health problems as a disability (those that have lasted at least 12 months), giving the employee the right to take their employer to an Employment Tribunal on the grounds of discrimination. Employment Tribunals carry significant financial and reputational costs which can diminish profits and goodwill.
Supporting Mental Health at Work – The 6 ‘Core Standards’
Maintaining the sound mental health of employees is undoubtedly in the best interests of employers, but putting actual workplace schemes in place is easier said than done. In 2017, the government commissioned a report, Stevenson-Farmer’s ‘Thriving at Work’, independently reviewing the role that employers play in supporting individuals with mental health issues at work. The report was made by Lord Dennis Stevenson as well as Mind’s CEO Paul Farmer, in which it sets out six ‘core standards’ that businesses should put in place to ensure the sound mental health of their employees:
- Implementing a Mental Health at Work Plan
The first of the core standards, this involves creating a healthy working environment and a workplace culture of openness. The idea is to encourage employees to come forward with their mental health problems and look to their employer for help rather than bottle up their problems through fear of them being disregarded or even concerns about being looked down upon.
- Developing Mental Health Awareness
Educating all employees about the problems some people face with mental health allows them to be more sympathetic and understanding when colleagues’ performance at work may fluctuate. It also means they can better support colleagues rather than letting them suffer in silence.
- Encouraging Open Conversations
The first step to dealing with mental health problems is to encourage employees to open up in the first place. Once problems are out in the open, employer and employee can begin to work together to find the right solution.
- Ensuring Employees’ Hours are Suitable
Poor work-life balance is a major cause of work-related stress. Giving employees more time to switch off away from work allows them to temporarily put the stresses of their job to the back of their mind. Upon returning to work, employees will feel more relaxed and motivated which boosts their morale, contributing to a healthier mental state.
- Promoting Effective People Management
Getting the most out of an employee is virtually impossible without knowing them as a person first. Taking an interest makes employees feel valued, contributing to better mental health, allowing employers to get the best out of each employee.
- Continuously Monitoring Mental Health
Mental health is an ongoing issue that anyone can begin to suffer with at any time, even those who appear to be the most confident or enthusiastic. Routinely monitoring employees, potentially through monthly 1-2-1s allows any mental health related problems to be identified early and dealt with quickly.
Although it may not seem obvious, employment and time at work can have a huge impact on the mental health of employees. That’s why this World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity to see what HR adjustments your business can make to support the mental health of your employees.
For further advice on HR strategies, plans or management or for any other employment law advice, contact one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156 to see how we can help.