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Is your workplace making time for mental health? #timetotalk

View profile for Emily Yeardley
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Every year, Time to Change run the campaign, Time to Talk Day with the aim of getting the nation talking about mental health.  The intention is that by having conversations, misconceptions and barriers around mental health can be reduced. It is important to ensure this aim is carried through into the workplace with 14.7% of people experiencing mental health problems at work.[1] Statistics like these suggest that many of us are likely to be working with someone struggling with their mental health.  Many of us spend more time with our colleagues than our families. It is therefore important that there are strong lines of communication in the workplace.

Ensuring the mental wellbeing of employees isn’t just good for the individuals, it is also good for business. The value added to the economy by those who have, or who have had, a mental health problem is as high as 12.1% of the UK’s GDP.[2] Mental illness also accounts for missed gross value of £25 billion to the UK’s economy annually.[3] Ensuring your workplace is doing everything it can to minimise mental health issues increases business value due to reduced staff absence, lower staff turnover, and increased employment of those with mental health issues.

So how can your company ensure it’s doing all it can to combat mental illness? Using opportunities like Time to Talk Day to open conversation between colleagues, and employees and their line managers is an important first step. Getting people talking about their mental health is an essential but potentially difficult step if the right environment isn’t created. Ensuring strong relationships between line managers and employees with regular one to one meetings will enable potential issues to be recognised earlier. This will in turn facilitate mechanisms to be put in place to help the individual manage their mental health, for example, making their workload more manageable by prioritising their responsibilities. Increased one to one meetings may also instil confidence in the individual to speak out if they are struggling. For some people the idea of talking to their superior about a mental health related issue can be daunting, putting in place a buddy system may help people take the first steps to opening up before going to their manager.

By taking a positive stance on encouraging conversations and providing support to employees, it will help to minimise the risk of potential discrimination claims. An individual will be entitled to legal protection if they meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees where such an adjustment would alleviate the substantial disadvantage caused by their disability. Just because an employer has not been told by an employee that they have a mental health condition, that will not absolve the employer from liability in all cases. It is therefore important to understand not only moral obligations but legal ones too.

Ensuring a good understanding of common, and less common, mental health issues across all levels of the workplace is also key to identifying your own, and others’, issues with mental health. This is possible by providing seminars, workshops, online materials, or a combination of all three. If you want to start your company’s journey to better mental health in the workplace, Time to Change have free resources available on their website. They also offer various training opportunities to help make sure your workplace is doing all they can to support its employees’ mental health.

If you, or your Company would like to obtain advice in relation to the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team.

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.

 

[1] Royal College of Psychiatrists, ‘Mental Health and Work’, 2008

[2] Mental Health Foundation, ‘Added Value: Mental health as a workplace asset’, 2016

[3] Mental Health Foundation, ‘Added Value: Mental health as a workplace asset’, 2016

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