By: 7 May 2024
How should employers be supporting your mental health?

Tom Moyes, a partner in the employment law team at Blacks Solicitors.

It is estimated that around 11 million working-age individuals in the UK are affected by mental health problems, with approximately one in six (14.7%) encountering these issues in the workplace. Further research suggests that mental health conditions contribute to more than 12% of all sickness absence days in the UK. Following these reports, there is increasing pressure for employers and businesses to understand their legal obligations and responsibilities to support employees’ well-being. Tom Moyes, a partner in the employment law team at Blacks Solicitors, shares his insight into the legal issues and responsibilities of employers around supporting employees when it comes to mental well-being.

 

The law

Many mental health conditions will fall under the legal definition of disability according to the Equality Act 2010 (the Act). This legislation offers legal protection against discrimination based on a mental health condition, recognising it as a disability if it significantly impacts an individual’s day-to-day activity over an extended period.

 

Legal responsibility for employers

Employers have a legal duty to prevent discrimination against employees facing mental health challenges and must implement reasonable accommodations for employees at work. They are obliged to establish and implement effective procedures, processes and support systems to assist employees dealing with mental health challenges.

To comply with the Equality Act 2010, workplaces should implement relevant policies and procedures, offer additional aids as necessary, provide flexible work schedules and offer increased supervision.

Employers should also understand the potential consequences of failing to provide reasonable adjustments and support for employees with mental health conditions. Failure to adhere to the Equality Act 2010 and provide reasonable adjustments could lead to employees filing disability claims with an employment tribunal. It’s important to note that even unintentional failure to make reasonable adjustments can be deemed discriminatory and result in a tribunal claim.

 

How can employers support employees?

In promoting employee wellbeing, an employer must first identify the particular issues and challenges faced by employees experiencing mental health problems, and consider what they can do to remove any barriers to encourage employee wellbeing.

Encouraging open discussions among employers, employees and colleagues regarding mental health can lead to better working conditions, improved health and wellbeing, and increased productivity. For instance, developing, implementing and communicating a workplace mental health plan that prioritises the mental health of all employees and clearly outlines available support services can effectively engage the workforce, as well as promoting open conversations around mental health.

Employers should also promote effective people management practices, enabling employees to have regular and open conversations about their health and well-being with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader. Fostering an environment where open discussions about mental health are encouraged ensures that struggling employees feel both heard and valued. This approach can be integrated into the recruitment process to demonstrate to potential new hires that their mental health is a top priority for the employer.

Additionally, employers are encouraged to incorporate comprehensive training into the workforce and support line managers to ensure they can effectively implement management practices that support employee wellbeing.

 

Image: Provided by Lucky North and Canva.
Emma Cockings
Emma is the content editor for Yorkshire Legal News. Emma is an experienced writer with a background in client-centric personal injury law for a major firm. She has attended and reported on numerous high-profile legal events in Yorkshire.