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World Mental Health Day

Wednesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day which is a great opportunity for employers to review how they deal with mental health in the workplace. Mental health and wellbeing is high on the agenda across many businesses and organisations, with employers being encouraged to promote and protect employee’s mental health as they would their physical health.

So what should employers do to manage mental health in the workplace?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 7 people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace and 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental ill health. The need to deal with mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly prominent. Generally employers know how to deal with physical ill health at work but lack confidence in dealing with employees with mental health issues.

Top Tip #1: Encourage conversations about mental health 

Starting a conversation with an employee about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult. Encouraging an open culture where employees feel like they can talk to each other and/or managers will undoubtedly help alleviate stress in the workplace.

Top Tip #2: Deal with the medical certificate

It is important for employers to deal with a medical certificate stating mental ill health appropriately, by contacting the employee to find out if work is a contributing factor in triggering it and if there are any steps that can be taken to alleviate or eliminate the cause as soon as possible. Appropriate contact should be maintained with an employee on sick leave during the entirety of their absence. An employer should discuss with the employees what measures it may be able to take to help an employee return to work at the earliest opportunity.

Top Tip #3: Don’t let matters drift during long term sick leave 

Employers should deal with issues head on when absence presents unacceptable levels of disruption to the business, rather than allowing the situation to drift to the point where the employee has been off for so long that dismissal looks like the only viable option.

Top Tip #4: What about disciplinary proceedings? 

A common problem for employers is that of the employee who, upon being told to attend a disciplinary hearing, goes off sick citing stress as the cause. Contrary to popular belief, the default position is not to postpone.

In most cases, medical advice will suggest that dealing with the disciplinary issue will be more beneficial to the employee.

Top Tip #5: Manage Poor Performance 

Where performance becomes an issue, discuss it with the employee promptly and explain that they are not performing to acceptable standards. If disciplinary action is necessary, ensure fair and appropriate procedures are followed with reference to any relevant internal policies and the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

Top Tip #6: Consider Reasonable Adjustments

You may consider making reasonable adjustments to help an employee stay in work or return to work whilst they are experiencing mental ill health. Flexible working is a potential option e.g. allowing them to start later or finish earlier or reduce their working days or providing them with remote access software and permission to work at home on set days.

Top Tip #7: Train your staff

Training line managers and senior staff to recognise mental ill health symptoms will help them to manage staff with varying degrees of mental health issues.

Our Employment Team can offer bespoke training and seminars on stress and mental health in the workplace that will help you to identify early warning signs amongst employees and reduce absence. All training can be dovetailed to help you manage your business more effectively.

Mental health in the workplace is a topic that we will be covering at our upcoming seminars this month at The Swan, Newby Bridge, Rheged, Penrith and Forrest Hills, Lancaster. You can find more information on our seminars here.

If you have any queries, please contact Joanne Holborn, Tom Scaife or Caroline Rayner on 01228 552600.

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