It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19th May 2019) and there are some stark figures showing the effect of mental health issues on business. The cost to business of poor mental health could be as high as £42 billion, with the increased cost to government approximately £25 billion through higher benefit spending. Finally, an estimated 300,000 people a year leave work due to poor mental health.

Employers are starting to take mental health seriously, with a rise in employees being trained as “mental health first aiders”. For example, ScotRail have recently announced they are training more than 50 employees to provide mental health first aid to their colleagues.

Many employers will have faced a situation where an employee has been signed off with stress, anxiety or depression and it can be a daunting thing to deal with. Employers are under legal obligations to protect the health of their employees by assessing risks of stress in the workplace and take steps to reduce it. This means that employers need to be proactive; they must understand what can trigger stress and think creatively about how this can be minimised.

Employers are also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments where an employee has a disability that affects their ability to carry out their job. This can include a mental health issue. Employers should therefore consider what options they have to make adjustments in the workplace, such as changes to how people perform their roles, changes to the role itself, or other support which could be offered to employees.

We’ve previously blogged before about how employers can take steps to minimise stress in the workplace here.

There will be no one thing which helps employees stay healthy or feel supported through any periods of poor mental health; instead employers should look to create a culture in which all employees feel they can be open and honest about any difficulties they are facing and feel supported. Employers should ensure their policies and procedures around sickness absence are up to date and that managers understand the importance of ensuring employees feel they can have open discussions and have access to help and support to enable them to get well and return to work.

If employers can take positive steps to support employees and foster a culture to minimise the risk of work-related mental health issues, both the employees and employer will benefit greatly.

If you are looking for legal advice on employment law from an employers perspective, contact our specialist team on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.