Consensus HR

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New ACAS Mental Health Guide

Published in Employment Law

Matthew from Consensus HR comments “Mental Health day was on Tuesday 10th October this year and ACAS (Arbitration, Conciliation, Advisory Service) this week brought out a number of publications to assist employers in the workplace when dealing with Mental Health Issues. In this blog I have abstracted a number of key areas that are mentioned within the new literature but full information can be found by clicking here.

Recent years have seen a number of cases go through the Employment Tribunal service with employers needing to be aware that there is not a time limit when a discrimination case can be taken to an Employment Tribunal (ET). This can happen from day one of employment and awards are uncapped. The new literature from ACAS amongst other things explains reasonable adjustments and what needs to be made if an employee is suffering from a mental illness, which is classed as a disability and further information can be found in the ‘Comply with legal obligations’ section of this blog.

A recent case that occurred this year, Nally v Freshfield Care Ltd. resulted in an award of £8,514 after dismissal for behaviour arising from disability occurred. Employers need to be aware of invisible disabilities that are not totally visible as many people aim to hide it at work so as to not experience discrimination and mental health is just one of these.

Employers need to look after their teams and ensure anything that can reasonably be done, is done as I always say, employees are one of businesses main assets and need to be taken care of and managed accordingly.   Here are a couple other blogs we have written in relation to mental health:

Mental Health – The HR Perspective

Employees with mental health issues face a lack of support and discrimination.

This blog covers:

  • Understanding mental health
  • What is mental health?
  • What can cause mental health?
  • The stigma associated with mental health.
  • Complying with legal obligations.
  • Promoting positive health in the workplace
  • Review & update existing policies.

Understanding mental health

An employer that understands mental health is better able to support and encourage staff to be more open about their mental health. To fully understand mental health, an employer should:

  • Recognise what mental health is and what mental ill health actually means
  • Identify the causes of mental ill health in the workplace
  • Recognise the stigma associated with mental ill health and consider how this can be removed from its workplace
  • Know its legal obligations to staff.
  • Create a mental health policy.

What is mental health?

Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal pressures of everyday life.

Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. Factors both in and out of work affect the mental health of staff and move them up or down a spectrum that ranges from good to poor.

For example, an employee may generally have positive mental health but a relationship break up may trigger a period of depression moving them into poor mental health. Alternatively, an employee with a mental health condition, such as depression, may have developed coping strategies that are working well and mean they move into having positive mental health.

What can cause mental ill health?

Many causes of mental ill health are related to problems outside of the workplace. For example, a family bereavement or illness may lead to stress, anxiety and/or depression.

While work can be good for people’s mental health (providing a sense of identity and personal achievement), the workplace can sometimes have a negative effect on mental health. Common workplace causes of mental ill health include:

  • Unmanageable workloads and/or demands
  • Poorly defined job roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of control over work
  • Unhealthy work-life balance
  • Poor relationships with management and/or work colleagues
  • Organisational change and/or job insecurity
  • Lack of variety in work
  • Lack of career progression opportunities.

While an organisation may not be able to prevent all the causes of mental ill health, it can take steps to reduce the work-related causes.

For more information, go to Tackle work-related causes of mental ill health.

The stigma associated with mental health

There is still a lack of understanding about mental health and misconceptions persist. It is often thought to be a sign of weakness, which it is not. Additionally, people experiencing mental ill health can still be seen as dangerous, when in fact they are more likely to be attacked or harm themselves.

This stigma creates a fear of being judged or discriminated against and discourages people from talking about their mental health. Someone experiencing mental ill health often feels unable to tell their manager or seek help. As a result, they may try to hide their problems and therefore their mental ill health may not be spotted until it becomes a serious problem for the individual and the organisation.

Comply with legal obligations

Employers must make sure they comply with legal obligations when dealing with mental ill health. Where an employee’s mental ill health amounts to a disability, an organisation must consider making ‘reasonable adjustments’ that will allow them to carry out their job. A ‘reasonable adjustment’ is a change or adaptation to the working environment that has the effect of removing or minimising the impact of the individual’s disability in the workplace so they are able to undertake their job duties, or apply for a job, without being at a disadvantage.

Whether an adjustment is reasonable will depend on the size of the organisation and available resources. However, many adjustments are simple and inexpensive, and just require good people management.

Adjustments, with the employee’s agreement, might include:

  • Flexible working hours or changes to their start and/or finish times
  • Changes to their role (this could be temporary or permanent)
  • Moving their workplace (such as moving their desk to better suit their needs or homeworking)
  • Increased help and support from their manager to ensure they can manage their workload
  • Providing extra training, coaching or mentoring.

Once in place, an adjustment should be regularly reviewed to check it is still appropriate and/or working as intended.

Create a mental health policy

An organisation should set out its approach towards mental health in a policy. Managers and staff can then refer to one document when requiring guidance, ensuring consistent approaches are taken. A policy can also highlight the organisation’s dedication to promoting positive mental health.

A policy may include, for example:

  • The organisation’s commitment to promote positive mental health for all its staff and tackle the causes of work-related mental ill health – this commitment should come from the head of the organisation
  • Its aim to provide a workplace where all staff feel able to talk openly about their mental health and not fear discrimination if their condition is a disability, or bullying and harassment
  • A requirement that managers and staff receive mental health training
  • Recognition that an employee’s performance or behaviour can be affected if they are experiencing mental ill health and that appropriate support and adjustments should be explored before considering any formal measures such as disciplinary action
  • A request that staff seek help at the earliest opportunity in the knowledge their employer will do its best to support them
  • Details of all support services in place for staff experiencing mental ill health

Promoting positive mental health in the workplace

  • The types of additional support that might be offered to help a team member experiencing mental ill health or who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition
  • A process to reintegrate staff absent from work due to mental ill health back into the workplace
  • Where to go for further support and information.

When developing a mental health policy, an employer should consult with staff and their representatives, if there are any. Any existing consultation and/or negotiating arrangements should be followed.

Policies should be regularly reviewed to check they are still relevant and working. This might include seeking staff feedback and analysing staff turnover and absence data.

Some employers may decide it is not necessary to have a dedicated mental health policy. However, they should ensure their managers and staff know where to go for support and further information when required.

Review and update existing policies

If an employer creates a mental health policy, its other policies should be checked and updated to refer managers and staff to it when dealing with mental ill health. Policies that may require updating include:

  • Absence and sickness
  • Health and safety
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Recruitment and induction
  • Redundancy
  • Equality
  • Whistleblowing
  • Performance management