Managing mental health matters in the workplace
Sep 2022
Employment & HR

Managing mental health matters in the workplace

As an employer, what responsibilities do I have around managing mental health issues in my workplace?

Awareness and understanding of the role that employers have in helping their staff manage their mental health, and the benefits of doing so, has quite rightly been growing in recent years, but the impact of Covid and the current cost of living crisis has brought it further into focus.

Poor mental health was the top reason for time off work in the UK in 2021, while recent research by business advisors Deloitte found that the cost to employers of poor mental health has increased to £56bn in 2020-21 compared to £45bn in 2019.

This is therefore clearly a huge issue which is likely to affect the great majority of employers in one way or another, and with demand for NHS mental health services increasing rapidly, it’s only reasonable to expect that this impact is going to become even greater.

There are clear benefits for employers in taking positive steps to support the mental well-being of their staff beyond just meeting their legal duty.

Providing the right kind of support in the working environment can help to reduce absence, cut down on mistakes, increase performance levels, improve working relationships between colleagues, enhance morale and help employers avoid complaints or claims against them.

Employers need to make sure that they and their managers are aware of the causes of workplace stress, and perhaps even more importantly, the warning signs that problems might be arising, regardless of whether these problems are occurring due to issues within or outside the workplace.

It’s always a good idea, but most especially at the moment, for employers to make a formal assessment of the stress risk in their workplace.

This will not only identify some of the measures that can be adopted to help reduce it, but also some of the risks they could be facing if they don’t make any necessary improvements.

Taking proactive steps to prevent, or at least reduce stress at work is very much in an employer’s interest, as is having in place of a formal policy for what to do if an employee tells you they are suffering from mental ill health.

Training managers on how to spot signs of mental ill health and how to support staff is also key as policies are only of any real use if they are followed!

Increasing awareness is also key and many employers have introduced Mental Health First Aiders in recent years, so employees have a trained point of contact if they need support.

Employee Assistance Programmes are also very popular and they provide, amongst other things, a helpline for employees who need support.

World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2022 also provides an opportunity for employers to raise awareness and to help breakdown any barriers their employees may be facing.

Given the current climate, it makes particular sense for employers to ensure that they and their management teams are fully on top of these issues before any issues, claims or complaints arise.

Hay & Kilner’s specialist Employment Team offers interactive training to managers to help businesses manage mental health responsibilities and reduce issues in their workplace.

For further information on policy development support, tailored advice and training around managing mental health responsibilities in the workplace, please contact Sarah Furness on 0191 232 8345 or via sarah.furness@hay-kilner.co.uk

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