Mental health at work: the law
Duty of care: leading by example
Sodexo Engage's Employee Assistance Programme
April is Stress Awareness Month, and we’ve been busy encouraging employers and HR professionals to #ActNow.
One of the best ways to avoid excess stress in the workplace is by ensuring managers have the tools they need to support their teams. Getting the best from your people doesn’t just come from recognition and reward. By making employee wellbeing, particularly mental wellbeing, a business priority, you can empower your people and boost your business.
Mental Health at Work: The Law
In the current climate of uncertainty and growing financial anxiety, we're asking employers to do more to support employee wellbeing. While clear business benefits follow when employee wellbeing is prioritised, there’s no legal requirement to offer employee benefits.
However, there are laws businesses must follow regarding mental health at work. Managers and senior members of an organisation have a duty of care to do all they can – within reason – to support the wellbeing and health of their workforce.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) details what provisions employers must have in place to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees – including their mental health.
The Equality Act (2010)
The Equality Act (2010) is enforced by law and defines protected characteristics safeguarded against any workplace discrimination. According to MIND, a mental health problem can fall under this act if a person can demonstrate that their issues are recognised as a disability.
Mental Health (Discrimination) Act (2013)
The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act (2013) abolished previous rulings that prevented people with mental health issues from carrying out certain roles. Concerning the workplace, this act ensures people with a recognised mental health illness are given the same progression opportunities as their colleagues.
Duty of Care: Leading by Example
It falls on the manager to communicate the standards and values their team should adhere to. To be authentic leaders, they must live and breathe these values, making it clear that there’s a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.
Organisations should create policies and training modules on mental health that all employees must complete, with managers given further training on the legalities and supporting neurodiverse employees.
Statistics suggest that 15% to 20% of the population are considered neurodiverse, equating to approximately one in seven adults.
Some neurodiversities, such as dyslexia, autism, and ADHD, are protected under the Equality Act 2010. Training managers to recognise and support such employees will ensure the business fosters a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion and reduce the risk of indirect discrimination.
Culture & Communication
‘Wellbeing washing’ is an industry phrase that describes organisations talking the talk but not walking the walk. It’s not enough to follow the law, which is, essentially, the absolute minimum a business can do.
Mental Health First Aiders
To show your employees you have their best interests at heart, consider training a group of Mental Health First Aiders. Your MHFAs are a team of employees with crucial knowledge of mental health and will be able to offer support to employees in need. Trained to recognise the signs of mental ill health, they can be their colleagues' first line of support.
Research suggests that only 2% of employees would feel comfortable speaking with their employer or manager about their mental health. However, with the support of your MHFAs, you can remove the stigma, create a supportive environment, and normalise conversations about mental health.
Empathy & Openness
In our blog on Empowering Managers During Times of Crisis, we cover in detail how a business can support its managers. It’s worth reiterating here that it’s essential for managers to be empathetic and open.
There’s more to being a manager than meeting targets and hitting KPIs. It’s about leading, directing, and supporting others, so good people skills are a must.
Employee wellbeing is more than a tick-box exercise, and the wellbeing messaging must be consistently reinforced through internal initiatives.
The HR wellbeing calendar is a busy one, giving employers and managers many opportunities to reinforce the mental wellbeing messaging. It starts in January with Blue Monday, then continues throughout the year, with some notable events being Stress Awareness Month in April and Mental Health Awareness Week in May, to name a few.
By recognising, communicating, and participating in these events, you reinforce the importance of mental wellbeing, normalising conversations around mental health, and building the messaging into your culture and values.
Stress & Burnout
We’ve developed a guide or cheat sheet designed to help managers and employers recognise the five stages of burnout and to help them prevent and reduce it.
With a section for employees to complete as well, it’s a great tool to use during one-on-ones and regular check-ins.
Sodexo Engage’s Employee Assistance Programme
We often say that even organisations with the most positive and open culture may still have employees who aren’t confident speaking about their mental health. As we mentioned above, only 2% of employees are, so it’s not a reflection on the business or manager but down to the individual, the stigma they may still perceive as being present, and their relationship with themselves.
Mental Health First Aiders are crucial in bridging this gap, but they’re still associated with the business and can only do so much.
Our Employee Assistance Programme gives employees access to BCAP-accredited counsellors face-to-face, by phone and email, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and a wellbeing app to access on the go. It’s also home to essential wellbeing resources designed to help employees help themselves. It also includes a manager’s area with information tailored towards the needs of your people and team leaders.
Alongside the measures you take as a manager to protect the mental health of your teams, Sodexo Engage has a variety of wellbeing-boosting packages you can also use to help create a supportive working environment. Arrange a call today to find out more.
Mental Health (Discrimination) Act (2013)