Mental Health in the Workplace

It is estimated  at least 1 in 6 people experience mental health problems in the workplace.  This inevitably has an impact on their performance and attendance at work.  Employers can help support their staff deal with mental health by creating an environment where staff feel able to discuss their mental health openly.

Following the delivery of her seminar ‘How to Handle Mental Health in the Workplace’, our Employment Partner, Paula Stuart provides some simple steps employers can take to improve how mental health is handled in the workplace:

1. Change of culture

Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health. This can be achieved by:

  • Introducing a Mental Health policy
  • Provide training for managers on dealing with stress and mental health
  • Encourage managers to ask how their staff are – have open conversations
  • Be alert to the early signs

2. Mental Health First Aider

Appoint a person who is a designated Mental Health First Aider who staff can talk to confidentially. Ensure that Mental Health First Aider receives training on how to perform the role.

3. Support and Adjustments

Once an employee is identified as suffering from a mental health problem offer support and adjustments:

  • Refer to Mental Health Policy
  • Identify cause and if linked to workplace carry out risk assessment
  • Consider if any adjustments can/should be made
  • Arrange counselling or refer to Occupational Health/GP

Adjustments, on a temporary or permanent basis may include:

  • Reduce workload
  • Flexible hours
  • Home working – but be careful not become isolated
  • Change of work space – quieter place
  • If due to working environment then assess if changes can be made, e.g change of line manager.

4. Dealing with absence

Sometimes an employee may be so unwell that absence cannot be avoided. Steps can be taken to manage the absence and support a return to work:

  • Maintain regular and meaningful communication
  • If work related – consider if need to submit a grievance or carry out a risk assessment
  • Consider adjustments to facilitate return to work
  • Refer to Occupational Health and assist with any recommendations including counselling

5. Support return to work

When employee is fit to return to work:

  • Arrange a meeting prior to return at a neutral venue – return to work interview
  • Discuss the person’s mental health and possible impact on their work
  • Discuss any worries they may have and try to reassure them that the company will support them.
  • Agree what colleagues should be told.

Agree a return to work plan:

  • First day back – who will meet them?
  • Agree adjustments – e.g phased return/ workload
  • Offer on-the-job support from line manager and HR
  • Offer other forms of support – e.g quiet room
  • Agree regular meetings to monitor and review

If your business needs advice or training on how to handle mental health in the workplace then do give Paula Stuart a call or email her on pstuart@geoffreyleaver.com

Paula Stuart, Partner

Paula Stuart | Employment Partner