According to a recent government report, 1 in 4 people in the UK will have mental health problem at some point in life and 1 in 6 workers has a mental health problem right now.
Workplace stress and mental health issues are on the rise. They account for 39% of work related absence with 11.3 million working days being lost a year. Interestingly, 95% of employees give their employer an alternative reason for absence if off work due to stress.
The cost of poor mental health to the economy as a whole, when viewed in terms of lost output is estimated between £74 and £99 billion per year. The cost of poor mental health to employers across the UK is between £33 and £42 billion per year.
In 2017, the Prime Minister ordered an independent review of mental health and employers, with a view to tackle the issue. Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, in their report issued in October 2017, reached some conclusions that illustrate why protecting health and well-being in the workplace is so important.
Six things employers should do to reduce mental health issues in the workplace
The Farmer/Stevenson report found that employers should:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan.
- Develop mental health awareness among employees.
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
- Provide their employees with good working conditions.
- Promote effective people management.
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
What Does the Law Say?
The law provides protection for employees who suffer from a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Amongst other things, an employer discriminates against a disabled person by failing to comply with its duty to make reasonable adjustments where a disabled job applicant or employee is placed at a substantial disadvantage.
You should therefore keep sickness absence under regular review. You should also meet with employees who are absent, either on their return as part of a back to work meeting, or at a sickness review meeting, with a view to discussing their absence, their health, and what assistance might be required.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has commented within a recent case that the reasonable adjustments duty is “primarily concerned with enabling the disabled person to remain in or return to work with the employer”, or to “to enable disabled people to play a full part in the world of work”.
Identifying reasons for sickness absence – and what steps you as an employer can take to support the employee during that absence, will always be a good starting point. Meeting with the employee, and potentially obtaining the input of occupational health, will help you comply with your legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments, but also look to provide the support that the employee may need going forward.
Gareth Edwards is an Associate in the Employment Law team at award-winning regional law firm VWV. Gareth can be contacted on 0117 314 5401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.