World Mental Health Day – Sunday 10 October 2021 – Managing mental health issues in the workplace

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 it was expected that the need for mental health support would increase during the pandemic. Recent statistics reported by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) have revealed that 86% of frontline workers have reported worsening mental health since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

With World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10 October, now 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. 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.

Employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees. This includes mental health and would extend the employer’s duty to situations where work is either causing or aggravating a mental health issue. Employers must undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks that employees are exposed to at work. A risk assessment should take account of work-related stress following the Health and Safety Executive’s “management standards” approach and reasonable care should be taken to ensure employees’ health is not put at risk by pressures or demands arising from work.

Employers 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.

Some steps to take towards complying with these duties and promoting staff wellbeing are to:

  • Introduce a policy or mental health plan to raise mental health awareness, 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; and when
  • Introduce support services for staff affected or absent by reason of ill mental health – such as Employee Assistance Programmes, Occupational Health, counselling, mentors and mental-health first aiders.

Investing in supporting employees with mental health issues can offer an element of protection in defending stress at work and disability discrimination claims, as well as ensuring Regulatory compliance, whilst also increasing productivity, wellbeing and job satisfaction 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 or our Health and Safety Team.

This update contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.

EMPLOYMENT: Caroline Carr, Partner & Accredited Specialist in Employment Law: / 0141 221 8012


Vikki Watt, Partner & Solicitor Advocate: / 0141 221 8012 / Connect with Vikki on LinkedIn