D-BRIEF – Employment & Pensions Blog: Mental Health in the Workplace

Following World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10th October 2021, we are reminded of the importance of mental health. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to improve their emotional intelligence, develop compassion and demonstrate that they care about their employees. According to Mind, 56% of employers would like to do more to improve mental wellbeing but do not feel that they have the right training or guidance to make a difference.

As Employers will be aware, they are under a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of their employees in all circumstances and to avoid exposing them to unnecessary risk. This duty of care extends to physical and mental health.

Spot the signs

Employers and managers should be alert to the early signs of stress and mental ill health, and be able to respond. A key part of spotting the signs is managers being alert to the potential workplace triggers for distress, for example, people working long hours and not taking breaks, unrealistic expectations or deadlines, unmanageable workloads or lack of control over work, or lack of management support etc.

Early signs of poor mental health can be physical, psychological or behavioural. A few examples include fatigue, headaches, anxiety, tearfulness, irritability, anger or increased sickness absence.

The Equality Act 2010

A mental health issue can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if all of the following apply:

  • it has a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on the life of an employee (for example, they regularly cannot focus on a task, or it takes them longer to do);
  • it lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to;
  • it affects their ability to do their normal day-to-day activities (for example, interacting with people, following instructions or keeping to set working times).

If an employee has a disability, employers will need to consider making reasonable adjustments to overcome any substantial disadvantage.

What can an Employer do?

Educating employees about mental health can promote positive change. By increasing knowledge and starting conversations about mental health, it helps to improve support within organisations. In particular, managers should be trained on how to spot issues at an early stage so steps can be taken to provide the support required.

Employers may also want to consider introducing mental health first aiders who are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions and can guide colleagues to the right support.

If you have any queries about mental health in the workplace please contact your usual contact in the Employment Team.

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