Mental health awareness has been a pivotal talking point for many organisations across the country, and what better time to discuss the issues than now, as the 9th – 15th May 2022 marks Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the theme is Loneliness, and with an estimated twenty-five million people in England feeling occasionally, sometimes, or often lonely in England, it is more important than ever to encourage employees to build connections inside and outside of the workplace.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we have all been affected by loneliness at some point in our lives, so we can understand how loneliness can become a contributing factor to poor mental health. If the last 2 years have taught us anything, from lockdown to changing work patterns and disruption to daily routines, it’s the importance of communication. Experiencing less access to those close to us, along with the lack of social events, networking, and remote working, has caused many to distance themselves from those they connected with daily.
This major change has caused many individuals to feel withdrawn from the workplace and their job, resulting in less commitment, lack of creative drive, and little collaboration, evidently impacting on the quality and quantity of work produced by employees.
What are the responsibilities of employers with safeguarding employee’s mental health at work?
Employers have a 'duty of care’ to act reasonably supporting their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing by making sure they have a safe working environment, risk assessments are carried out and staff are protected from discrimination.
There are certain criteria an individual must meet for their mental health issue to be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If an individual satisfies the criteria, then employers must ensure that they do not discriminate against them and make reasonable adjustments to suit their needs. This ensures that people with mental health problems are protected from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt to a working environment that suits them best.
What if an employee is suffering from ill mental health but is not considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010?
Employers should still make best efforts to make reasonable adjustments for the individual. Often small changes to an employee's working arrangements can make a big difference to not only their mental health but also their performance at work. So, what actions can an employer take to support staff who may be struggling with their mental health and in particular, loneliness?
Provide mental health support. Employers should create an environment where staff feel comfortable and safe to talk openly about their mental health. Providing employees with regular one–to–one meetings with managers or with their partner at work can allow an employee to open up about how they may be feeling and discuss issues they may be facing inside or outside of the workplace.