The management of mental health in the workplace has been hitting headlines in recent months.
In October, the Thriving at Work report, commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May, found that up to 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems have to leave their jobs each year, with poor mental health costing the UK economy up to £99billion annually.
This followed the Mental Health at Work Report 2017 where 60% of the 3,000 workers interviewed said they had experienced mental health issues because of work.
In response to this rising trend, and to coincide with the World Mental Health day on 10 October 2017, ACAS have published the following guidance to help employers understand and effectively deal with this growing issue. The guidance comes in the form of specific guides on the following:
- Promoting Positive Mental Health in the Workplace
- Dealing with Stress in the Workplace
- Managing Staff Experiencing Mental Ill Health
How to support and manage employees
The new guidance looks at how employers should identify, mitigate and treat mental health issues in the workplace. In particular, looking closely at the following in detail:
- The role of a manager when supporting employees and their mental wellbeing
- How to spot the signs of mental ill health
- How to start conversations and support employees in developing their own Wellness Action Plan
- Encouraging employees to talk to each other about their mental health, and how to manage an employee who may feel unable to talk
- Supporting a team member through a period of mental ill health
- How managers can support the rest of their team should one be experiencing mental ill health
- Managing absence and their return to work, when appropriate
- Approaching potential capability or disciplinary matters
The cost and risks employers run of leaving issues untreated
The Thriving at Work Report calculated that the annual cost to employers of poor mental health issues is between £33bn and £42bn, with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism, when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work, and additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover.
Given the above, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve seen a vast increase in enquiries from clients about managing long term sickness caused by poor mental health. Some of our biggest tribunal cases that the Employment team has dealt with over the past year have come from disability discrimination claims caused by mental illness. This is because a number of mental health problems such as depression can qualify for the statutory protection from discrimination by reason of the protected characteristic of ‘disability’ in the Equality Act 2010. If the illness amounts to a mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term impact on the person’s ability to carry out their day-to-day tasks then the threshold of disability is met for an employee to bring a claim. Regardless of the length of service in employment as in unfair dismissal claims. Moreover, compensation in successful discrimination claims is uncapped, leaving employers exposed to the knock on consequences of prolonged absence from work, in addition to the costs of arranging work cover.
But beyond tribunals and compensation, the cost for businesses that do not tackle these issues can be immense. Statistics from research conducted by the CIPD show that employees suffering from poor mental health are 37% more likely to get into conflict with their colleagues. 80% of mental health sufferers find it difficult to concentrate. 62% of people take longer to do tasks. If these issues can be addressed through better trained staff, clear policies and procedures and more readily supported accessible help for mental health sufferers then, in turn, businesses can be more productive, which is good for the economy as a whole.