How to Avoid Mental Health Discrimination at Work
Mental health awareness has been on the rise in the last few years, but so has the rate of mental health issues in the workplace.
It’s been on the increase since 2010, but the Covid-19 pandemic led to a significant spike, with lockdown affecting every element of our wellbeing. A massive 1.46 million people were referred to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in 2020/21, so it’s essential that employers not only support employee mental wellbeing, but work hard to avoid discrimination against mental health in the workplace.
What is mental health discrimination?
Under the Equality Act 2010, ‘Disability’ is one of the nine protected characteristics, and mental health is included within this category.
Mental health discrimination at work refers to an employee being treated less favourably, or put at a disadvantage, because they suffer from a mental health condition that qualifies as a disability.
What are some examples of mental health discrimination?
Some examples of mental health discrimination at work would include:
- An employee being denied a promotion because they suffer with anxiety.
- An employee faces disciplinary action for repeated absences as a result of a mental health condition.
- The employer does not make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s work schedule in order for them to attend counselling sessions. This would be considered ‘indirect’ discrimination, because although it might be the result of a policy that applies to all employees, it disadvantages an employee with a mental health condition.
How can businesses support employees struggling with their mental health?
Create a supportive, empathetic culture
One of the most effective ways of dealing with mental health issues is to talk about them. Indeed, talking therapies are one of the most popular treatments for mental health.
This culture needs to run throughout the entire organisation, from senior management through to new hires.
Line managers should conduct regular check-ins as part of a monthly 1-to-1 or as a separate process, giving team members the opportunity to air grievances or concerns. These issues need to be listened to and, where appropriate, acted upon.
Build these processes into onboarding too, so every new hire understands how seriously the business takes supporting each other.
Provide appropriate training
Mental health issues are complex, so dealing with them in the workplace is challenging without the proper training. With this in mind, make sure all managers are given the right training on how to deal with these issues when they arise.
This training will help to guide them on how best to respond to certain situations, and this then needs to be framed by policies and procedures to ensure consistency and that you’re complying with the law.
Implement an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Although talking about mental health issues is important, many people feel uncomfortable doing so, especially with people they know. Team members struggling with their mental health aren’t always going to want to speak to their managers.
With that in mind, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a great solution.
For example, the EAP provided by Sodexo Engage will connect your workforce with professional counsellors fully accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Employees will be able to access mental health support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via fully confidential phone or face-to-face sessions.
Speak to one of our experts today to find out more about our EAP programme.
Support financial wellbeing
Financial wellbeing and mental wellbeing are closely linked.
Money worries are one of the biggest drivers of stress in UK adults, while one in five workers would like their employer to provide broader financial guidance, debt management and counselling if they were struggling with money worries.
Businesses are perfectly positioned to support their employees’ financial wellbeing, and fortunately, there are several ways you can do so beyond their monthly salary:
- Provide access to an employee discounts platform, offering employees the opportunity to enjoy money off everyday purchases as well as the things that make them happy.
- Help their salaries to go further with a salary sacrifice scheme, for example travel season tickets, annual leave purchase or car schemes. Not only do these schemes help employees avoid having to take out expensive lines of credit for essential big purchases, but they also save them and you (the employer) money on National Insurance Contributions.
- Provide financial rewards for a job well done, such as eVouchers, gift cards or prepaid recognition cards. The latter empowers employees to spend the money wherever is most appropriate to them. What’s more, recognition is essential for employee engagement, a key driver of talent acquisition, and can increase productivity by 43%.
Ready to support your employees?
Your organisation needs to support employee mental wellbeing for a number of reasons beyond ensuring you comply with the law around mental health discrimination at work.
When your workforce is stressed at work, or experiencing anxiety or depression, the consequences include:
- A drop in productivity
- Increase in fatigue
- Poorer decision making
- Increased absenteeism
Burnout is also considered to be one of the biggest challenges for maintaining strong retention by 95% of HR leaders.
Transforming your organisation into one that supports mental wellbeing isn’t straightforward, so you need to work with a partner that can support you effectively—and that’s where we can help.
At Sodexo Engage we’ve helped some of the UK’s leading organisations improve their mental health support. We’ll work with you to deliver a package of solutions that are suited to your business, whether that’s an EAP, access to our award-winning employee benefits platform, or setting you up with a rewards and recognition programme that empowers your team to deliver the best work they can.
We know what it takes to support every pillar of employee wellbeing, including mental, physical and financial, and we can’t wait to help you start the journey towards becoming a supportive company culture that prioritises the mental health of its people.
Ready to find out more? Contact our experienced team of engagement experts today.