On 23rd February 2021, Boris Johnson cautiously detailed the intended plans for the United Kingdom to ease restrictions and return to a modicum of normality. Whilst this is good news, it does not address the fact that many individuals have suffered tremendously with their mental health over the course of the three lockdowns.
What is Mental Health?
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Both change throughout our lives, and like our bodies, our minds can become unwell. The World Health Organisation describes mental health as ‘as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’.
Research suggests that 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace, which is over 14.7%. A staggering figure, yet, it comes as no surprise, as over 300,000 people with mental health problems lose their job each year. Additionally, mental health related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in United Kingdom workplaces.
The Law and Mental Health
Employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Whilst this can be deemed as quite ambiguous, it does include mental health and wellbeing. Employees who have a mental health condition can be defined as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 and will therefore be protected from discrimination during employment.
Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances, the nature of the disability and the resources of the employer. Under health and safety legislation, employers have duties to assess the risk of stress-related poor mental health arising from work activities and take measures to control that risk.
Is help available?
In recent years, charities such as Mind and Every Mind have worked tirelessly to improve and guide corporations around the stigma of mental health in the work place. Mind Charity provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Mind Charity advocates daily around raising awareness and promoting further understanding in work places and in everyday society. Every Mind deliver a service that tailors towards your business needs, no matter how big or small.
There are of course other organisations, such as Samaritans, mates in mind and work in mind. All working collectively to reduce the taboo around mental health and ensuring the working environment is a positive place to be in.
What can employers do?
Employers have several areas of focus to consider. Firstly, supporting the mental health of employees who are continuing to work in essential and key worker roles, many of whom continue to work under significantly increased pressure that may make them more vulnerable to stress or other mental health conditions.
Secondly, the need to support those who continue to operate remotely as well as those who may return to the workplace on a phased or adjusted basis. The resilience of all employees has been challenged by the current situation, although the mental health and wellbeing implications of this shall vary from employee to employee.
CIPD have recently set out several considerations for employers and Human Resources to follow:
- Brief managers on the potential mental health implications of Covid-19 and their specific roles and responsibilities in relation to supporting staff.
- Communicate regularly on wellbeing and mental health support, wherever possible supported by activities that encourage physical, mental and social wellbeing.
- Provide mental health awareness-raising activities, work towards a culture where it is acceptable to talk about and seek support for poor mental health.
- If employees are needed in the workplace, those who started work for the organisation in the time prior to lockdown may need a re-induction into the work place to help them feel connected and engaged.
This article is intended for information purposes only and not as a substitute for legal advice. Audley Chaucer does not accept any responsibility for any decisions that you may make as a result of reading this article. If you require further information on this topic, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email us at email@example.com or visit our Linkedin page.