From experiencing mild anxiety to full-blown depression or feelings of helplessness, workers can experience an array of mental health issues.
In 2021/2022, on average a person who is suffering from stress, depression or anxiety took 18.6 work days off, which equated to 17 million workdays in total.
All employers have a duty of care to their employees and must take all necessary precautions to ensure their mental wellbeing. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1992 requires employers to assess mental health work-related issues and to measure the levels of risk to their employees.
According to the ACAS website, to create a positive environment at work and help prevent work-related stress, employers should
- have a clear policy on mental health and stress
- address the causes of stress through risk assessments and employee surveys
- encourage people to raise their concerns – for example, if a person feels they are being discriminated against
- provide training for managers – for example, on managing conflict, change and work-related stress
- support their employees – for example, listening to concerns and acting on them quickly
- promote a work-life balance – for example, encouraging employees to use their breaks and take holiday
- provide employees with access to support – for example, an employee assistance programme (EAP) or training on stress management techniques
From a health and safety perspective, it is also important to ensure that, if an employee is operating equipment or plant, for example, they are in the right place mentally to remain focused on the task.
It’s good to talk
Ensuring people have a way to share and/or vent their concerns, worries and feelings is a very important tool in tackling mental health issues.
With this in mind, companies should consider identifying a mental health champion who can lead on mental health issues in the workplace and to ensure they are appropriately addressed. Alternatively, employers can set up a mental health support group or a buddy system to encourage employees to share their concerns in a less formal way. All these options provide a point of contact for those who are having troubles to approach in the first instance.
At the same time, employers may want to consider asking employees to complete online mental health modules. These can be found at a range of places including Mental Health at Work and ACAS. Many of these online portals offer certificates of completion to encourage people to complete the modules, which have been developed with everyone in mind.