Today is Time to talk day, a charity run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health.
What many people don’t realise is that Mental Health falls under the category of disability and if people who have mental health problems are treated unfavourably because of their condition this is discrimination and, if you experience it, you may have a legal right to challenge it.
So mental health is an issue your business can no longer afford to ignore:
- Almost one in three people have experienced mental health issues whilst in employment
- Mental ill-health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year
- 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason
Tackling stigma (where an employee is perceived as being different because of their mental health problem) and discrimination and developing a culture where your employees feel able to talk openly about their mental health problems should be the number one priority within your business.
It is important as an employer you are aware of your obligations to your employees to protect them from discrimination.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 is the law that gives employees the right to challenge discrimination. It protects people from being discriminated against because of certain protected characteristics, such as gender, age or disability and mental health.
Since the Equality Act 2010 came into force, it is unlawful for employers to ask questions about health during recruitment.
It is up to the candidate whether they wish to disclose their mental health problem or not. An employer has a duty to ensure that if the candidate does disclose, they are not discriminated against and are treated fairly.
CIPD make some recommendations for employers:
- Distinguish carefully between essential and desirable requirements for the job to allow for flexibility in making adjustments.
- Communicate your commitment to equal opportunities and how your organisation values staff mental health.
- State that reasonable adjustments are available.
- Any information on health or disabilities should be kept separate from the job application form
The Equality Act 2010 also puts employers under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments (in other words changes).
A few examples of changes that might help
- Extending flexible working policies to allow commuting outside of rush hours
- Allowing staff to take time off work for appointments
- Making changes to their working area
- Allowing staff to work at home on occasion if this is helpful
- Temporarily re-allocating tasks they find stressful and difficult
As an employer you have a key role to play in supporting employees to maintain their mental wellbeing. Regular supervision or catch-up meetings can help managers recognise symptoms such as stress, anxiety, paranoia or depression. It is also worth incorporating time in your meetings to discuss your employees’ wellbeing. Managers play a crucial role in setting reasonable adjustments, flexible working allowances and return to work plans if employees need additional support.
Ideally, speaking about mental health problems should be an intrinsic part of the culture of your workplace.
It’s critical that all of your line managers feel confident having a conversation about mental health with their line reports. Increasing their capability to spot signs and symptoms in their team, and feel confident in discussing this with those who are struggling will help stop problems before they become more challenging.
If you need any further advice or guidance or would like to discuss how you can tackle any Mental Health issues within your business from an HR perspective give us a call.