Book a Demo

Insights into Human Resources

Mental health in the workplace, what employers need to know

Sunday 07 October 2018 - By Kathleen Powell - Co Founder and Director of Colossus Systems

With growing concerns surrounding workplace mental health and employee wellbeing, it is vital employers not only consider implementing wellbeing policies and practices, but for them to be able to spot signs of mental health issues early on and to know how to respond and deal with mental impairments and hidden disabilities with care and support.

With a 31% increase in the number of UK employees reaching out to employee assistance programmes (EAP’S) for help since 2017[1], it indicates a growing need to address employee wellbeing and health in the workplace. With employee wellness programmes on the rise and the Government's Department of Health reporting that one in four of people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives; it is crucial that employers take measures to promote positive mental health and support those in their organisations with mental ill health.[2]

It is apparent from recent statistics[3] that an increasing number of sickness absences are connected to mental health. It is for this reason employers and the government are beginning to realise that more needs to be done to alleviate this issue. Therefore, aiming to get people back in work where possible. With the government commissioning the Stevenson-Farmer Review[4] on mental health in the workplace and big companies adopting wellbeing policies and practices, we can see that there are positive steps being made towards investing in improving the inclusion of those suffering with mental impairments[5].

However, despite this step towards creating a more equal playing field, it can still be a challenge for employers to get recruitment and employment practices right, when dealing with hidden disabilities, especially mental health issues.

An extensive amount of academic literature has been documented about the considerable stigma attached to mental health issues, and the reluctance of individuals struggling with disabilities to disclose their conditions to their employers through fear of discrimination and the negative response it may trigger[6].  A recent survey conducted by mental health charity Mind concluded that nearly half of workers have experienced mental health in their current jobs but were too afraid to communicate this to their employers.[7] This can create an obstacle where a claimant needs to rely on the protection of the law or where there is a need to make reasonable adjustments, because without knowledge of the condition, it is difficult for the employer to know what measures or adjustments need to be made. The case of J v DLA Piper[8] is an example of a claimant who had a job offer withdrawn following the disclosure of their history of depression. It is the employer’s responsibility to remove this stigma and create open discussions, if we are going to remove social exclusions and implement equal integration and participation in the workplace.

Moreover, another contributory factor of where employers may face difficulties in determining whether an employees hidden disability or mental illness constitutes a disability, is the issue surrounding diagnosis[9]. For instance, Forsyth v Harris[10], the claimant was not diagnosed with the hidden disability Asperger’s syndrome until after he was dismissed from his job. Although diagnosis is useful to the employee, as it may help when determining whether they need adjustments at work, and can help employers better understand the reason for certain issues that could surround capability, it is not imperative for the individual to be diagnosed, as it is all down to whether the employee satisfies the criteria set out in s6[11], as to whether they will be deemed disabled and receive protection under the act[12].

In light of the above employers should be aware of matters which may indicate that there is an underlying disability and how it could impact the employee’s day-to-day life and activities. As in some cases, employers will be legally obliged to take certain steps if the legal definition of disability is met.

As a result of the negative impact that mental health issues can have on an individual and the business, it is imperative that us as employers ensure our staffs wellbeing and health are taken seriously and measures put in place and followed by management to support those in need.

Learn about how Online HR Software can aid in routine monitoring of staff mental health and wellbeing, providing analytics and reporting, that gives you real time data to spot areas of concern, so you can act before it becomes a major problem.

Get access to HRChecker wellbeing policy template and a full library of legal and compliance documents, such as employee handbooks, health and safety policies and procedures, employment contracts and managing equality, diversity and inclusion. All template documents can be edited and tailored to your business online and then instantly downloaded and ready to use in your organisation; helping you remain compliant and up-to-date on employment issues at all times.  

Follow for me at @SystemsColossus or  linkedin.com/colossus-systems for similar blogs, resources and stories.

[1] according to statistics provided by Personal Group and Health Assured

[2] ACAS, ‘Mental health in the workplace’

[3] Mental health statistics: mental health at work, mentalhealth.org.uk

[4] Thriving at work, The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers

[5] Kenny Scott, The law and mental health in the workplace, 5 July 2017, Personal Today

[6] Mark Bell, Mental Health at Work and the Duty to Make Reasonable Adjustments, 1 July 2015, Industrial Law Journal

[7] Ashleigh Webber, Employee assistance calls for mental health issues rise by nearly a third, 18 sep 2018, Occupational Health & Wellbeing from Personnel Today

[8] J v DLA Piper UK LLP UKEAT/0263/09/RN

[9] Mark Bell, Mental Health at Work and the Duty to Make Reasonable Adjustments, 1 July 2015, Industrial Law Journal

[10] Forsyth v Harris t/a The Sportsman ET 1100006/10

[11] Equality Act 2010 s6

[12] Equality Act 2010

More Insights

  • What makes a strong company culture?

    What makes a strong company culture?

  • Unconscious bias: dealing with the elephant in the room

    Unconscious bias: dealing with the elephant in the room

  • The future of hiring, are you ready?

    The future of hiring, are you ready?

  • What is meant by the gig economy & the workers status test

    What is meant by the gig economy & the workers status test

  • Home office immigration raids grow hotter this summer!

    Home office immigration raids grow hotter this summer!

  • Do you have a Talent Acquisition Strategy? And if you don’t, should you?

    Do you have a Talent Acquisition Strategy? And if you don’t, should you?

  • Is recruitment automation transforming the way London recruits top talent?

    Is recruitment automation transforming the way London recruits top talent?

Interested in Learning More?

Contact Us