World Mental Health Day – managing mental health issues in the workplace

World Mental Health Day takes place each year on 10 October to promote positive mental health, raise awareness of mental health difficulties and tackle stigma. Statistics show that at least 1 in 4 people in the UK experience ill mental health (such as anxiety, depression, addiction and PTSD) each year. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to our daily lives and, with the current cost of living crisis, it is expected that the need for mental health support will continue over the coming months and years. Some workers may feel uncertain about their future livelihoods with the increasing risks of redundancy. Others may be experiencing social isolation from working at home. 

Mental health is not an issue on only one day of the year, of course, and employers should commit to promoting staff wellbeing all year round.  However, today is a great time to remind employers of the steps they can take to help employees who are suffering from workplace stress or other mental health issues.

Some steps to take in doing so are to: 

  • Introduce a policy highlighting the organisation’s commitment to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
  • Provide training to managers on how to recognise work related stress and mental ill health and how to promote their own mental wellbeing and that of colleagues   
  • Promote a culture of open communication and ask that employees raise issues if they feel they are not coping.
  • Take account of stress and mental wellbeing when allocating working hours, overtime and workload
  • Introduce support services for staff affected or absent by reason of ill mental health – such as Occupational Health, counselling, mentors and mental-health first aiders

It is also recognised that staff should take their own steps to look after their mental health at work. Employers have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure employees’ health is not put at risk by pressures or demands arising from work. They also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee with a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010, which includes both physical and mental impairments; and a duty not to discriminate against an employee because of their disability.

Investing in supporting employees with mental health issues can offer an element of protection in defending stress at work and disability discrimination claims, whilst also increasing productivity and wellbeing in the workforce – it’s a win-win. 

If you would like to introduce a Stress and Mental Wellbeing policy in your workplace, or discuss any aspect of this blog, please contact a member of our Specialist Employment Law Team.

Laura Salmond, Partner & Accredited Specialist in Employment Law: / 0141 221 8012 / Connect with Laura on LinkedIn