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Look after your staff’s mental health, look after your business

Howells Solicitors

11 Oct, 2018

As a society, we are becoming more aware of mental health and the impact this can have on people’s daily lives. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point. The stigma surrounding mental health is now slowly lifting as society becomes more open and tolerant and awareness is increasing.

How mental health can be supported in the workplace is therefore a serious issue and one that employers must give strong consideration to. Last year the government commissioned an independent review into this which has led to the publication of the Stevenson-Farmer Thriving at Work review – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf

As part of their review, they found that there is a big cost of poor mental health in the workplace, impacting on the employees themselves, society, the economy and the government. A startling statistic being that employers are losing billions of pounds due to poorly supported mental health in the workplace resulting in workers being less productive, less effective or off sick.
The review has highlighted a number of core standards that the authors hope will lead the UK to being “global leaders in reducing stigma, improving the mental health of the population and support for those who need it, and in the process improve the UK’s productivity.”

Their vision, as a conclusion to the report is:

  • Ensuring employees in all types of employment will have good work, contributing positively to their mental health, society and the economy;
  • Everyone having the knowledge and confidence and understand and look after their own, and others’ mental health;
  • All employers having the knowledge, skills and ability to address and prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work; and reduce the proportion of people with long term mental health who leave employment each year (currently 300,000 people with long term mental health problems lose their job annually).

To achieve this, the report sets out “mental health core standards” – a framework for a set of actions which they believe all organisations in the country are capable of implementing quickly. These mental health core standards are as follows:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan;
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees;
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling;
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development;
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors;
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

They also set out a number of enhanced standards, ostensibly for larger employers, including:

  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
  • Demonstrate accountability
  • Improve the disclosure process
  • Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help

The effect of this report could be far reaching and clearly it sets out some sensible standards for employers to introduce to support their staff and in turn support the mental health of their staff. Employers would be encouraged to avoid the stigma of mental health and to actively support their employees to enhance the morale and in turn efficiency and productivity of their staff.

As a business, it is always a good idea to be alert to new ways of supporting your staff, they are after all a highly important commodity.

For a confidential discussion about how best to implement a plan to support the mental health of your staff please contact a member of our expert employment team.

Tom Bernard
Employment Solicitor

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