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Mental health at work - Supporting employees

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An area of difficulty for employers is where an employee’s disability is not self-evident and may only impact in particular situations or in relation to certain responsibilities. Examples of such ‘hidden’ disabilities are mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that one in four of us will suffer mental ill-health at work some point during our careers and absences for stress, depression and anxiety have been steadily on the rise in recent years. There are many things which a good and reasonable employer should do to support employees at work who have mental health conditions and to avoid having a disability discrimination claim brought against them by an employee.

To increase our understanding of the issues facing some employees, two clarion employees Nicola Moyes (HR Assistant) and Clare King (Legal Director in our private client team)  undertook training last month to become Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace. Like any organisation, it is important for law firms to appoint more wellbeing champions and mentors to ensure employees are not suffering from stress at work and this was highlighted recently in guidance published by the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD).

On Thursday 3rd May, Clarion organised a Mental Health Seminar to offer advice and guidance to businesses about how they can support employees who are suffering from mental ill-health, legal obligations towards employees with mental health conditions were discussed, and some practical tips on how to promote employee wellbeing were provided.

Here are some top tips for employers to get you thinking about whether you might benefit from some more training:

1)            Be aware that mental wellbeing affects everyone and it is as important to look after mental health as it is physical health

2)            Be alert to the possibility that employees may have poor mental health or diagnosed mental ill-health, which could mean that they need care and support

3)            There is a difference between the diagnosis of a mental health condition and the effect that it has on an employee. Only by understanding the impact can an employer assess the employee’s ability to undertake the work and identify what adjustments and support it can provide

4)            Make sensitive enquiries and investigate fully, including consulting with the employee and experts. A lot of information and support can be obtained from specialist or charitable organisations

5)            Focus on what tasks the employee can do without difficulty, looking at their strengths rather than tasks which they find difficult. This could lead to tweaking a job role

6)            Bear in mind that processes such as performance management could trigger symptoms of a mental health condition and that workplace concerns - such as a personality clash, performance concerns or misconduct - may result from a mental health condition

7)            Ensure that reviews and appraisals are not delayed or rearranged. If an employee has spent time working up to talking about a mental health issue, taking away the opportunity for them to raise it could mean that the opportunity is lost

8)            Make time to listen. Leave mobile phone and smart watches out of the way when engaging with an employee so that the message to your employee is that their mental health is important, not that you are distracted or don’t have time for them

9)            Recruit colleagues to train as Mental Health First Aiders to help manage the mental health of your workforce

10)          Take part in Mental Health Awareness week 2018 (14-20 May) - good mental health starts with awareness

 If you have any questions about mental health at work, please contact Joanna Dodd, Senior Associate in our Employment team on 0113 336 3318 or joanna.dodd@clarionsolicitors.com

Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.