According to recent studies, approximately one in six people experience the symptoms of a mental health problem in any given week. Although mental health has become more talked-about in recent years in the UK, people with mental health problems can face challenges getting the help and support they need. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of how poor mental health affects their workers, and so are looking for ways to support them.
It is also important to bear in mind that some mental health problems may meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010, if they amount to an impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term impact on the person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. Where this definition is met, the person will be protected from discrimination and harassment, and be entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work.
Acas, the government advisory and conciliation service, last year published guidance for managers to use when considering how they can support their team members when they suffer from mental ill-health.
The guidance considers how managers can spot the signs of mental ill health, including by fostering a culture where staff can be open and honest about how they are feeling. Staff who have previously experienced mental ill health may find it beneficial to develop Wellness Action Plans to identify triggers, symptoms and early warning signs, and what support they may need from their manager.
There are also tips on how to approach a sensitive conversation regarding mental ill-health with a team member, and practical advice noting common adjustments which can be made for staff experiencing ill-health. The importance of communication during any period of ill-health related absence is emphasised, as lack of contact can make it much harder for a team member to return to work.
The full Acas guidance is available here.
Article contributor: Sarah Leslie, solicitor