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Employers should monitor for mental well-being

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Stress, depression and anxiety could amount to disabilities requiring reasonable adjustments

According to the World Health Organisation ‘health’ is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Employers wishing to achieve the highest levels of productivity and performance from their staff should consider not just health but also employee well-being, which encompasses a much wider range of factors, including mental health.

Monitoring

Underlying long term mental health conditions which have a substantial effect on an employee’s day to day activities could constitute a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. This could include conditions linked to well-being such as stress, depression and anxiety. Organisations should monitor the health of employees to ensure any long term health complaints are identified early.

It is often more difficult for employers to identify mental health conditions than physical impairments, even though the former are more common. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.

Reasonable adjustments

Employers have positive obligations to make reasonable adjustments to assist employees suffering from disabilities to work. It is also important that employers do not treat disabled employees less favourably, or unfavourably, because of a disability or something arising from such a disability.

Overarching policies which could, and do, negatively affect employees suffering from a disability should be avoided. Employers should also be conscious of their obligations not to treat employees less favourably because they are associated with someone who suffers from a disability.

Productivity

Discrimination issues arising from disabilities are complex and employers should take legal advice to ensure that they act within legal parameters. However, the benefits of supporting employee well-being are well documented and will increase productivity and save cost. A survey looking at UK health, well-being and productivity conducted by Towers Watson found that businesses which implement a health and well-being programme achieve 27 per cent higher productivity.

Well-being

Guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence provides examples of steps employers could take to achieve employee well-being. The guidance recommends that employers should:

Article featured in People Management online - 11th November 2013

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