Mental health in the workplace has gained significant recognition as a crucial aspect of overall well-being, especially in the context of the place of work. Employees’ mental health directly impacts their productivity, job satisfaction, and overall job performance. As awareness about mental health continues to grow, so do the legal considerations that employers need to be aware of.
This problem is not going away. At any one time it is estimated that one in six people of working age in the UK experience symptoms associated with mental ill-health. There are also huge financial considerations too, a recent Mental health report by Deloitte found that mental ill health costs UK employers approximately £56 billion each year. This cost has increased 25% since 2019 alone. In this blog, we will explore some of the essential legal considerations and pieces of legislation that employers need to be aware of to promote mental health in the workplace.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 is a key piece of legislation that prohibits disability discrimination, including on the grounds of mental health, as well as other protected characteristics.
Mental health conditions that have a substantial and long-term impact on an individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities may be considered disabilities under the Equality Act. Employers are obligated to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with such disabilities, including mental health conditions. This may include providing flexible working arrangements, adjusting workloads, or offering additional support.
Employers should avoid making assumptions about an individual’s capabilities based on their mental health condition and instead focus on providing an inclusive and supportive work environment, providing reasonable accommodations.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a duty of care on employers to ensure their employees’ health, safety, and welfare whilst at work, which includes their mental health. Employers are responsible for identifying and mitigating any aspects of potential workplace stress that could adversely affect their employees’ mental well-being. Regular risk assessments and employee consultations can help identify potential stress factors and allow employers to implement reasonable accommodations to prevent mental health issues from arising. Regular risk assessments and effective communication with your staff can help employers to address mental health problems which may in turn reduce absenteeism and improve employee engagement and productivity.
Management Standards for Work-Related Stress
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published Management Standards for Work-Related Stress, offering employers a framework to assess and manage mental health in the workplace effectively. By adhering to these standards, employers can create a healthier work environment to minimise the risk of stress-related mental health problems among employees. The standards encompass various factors such as workload, control, support, and organisational change.
Health information including that pertaining to mental health constitutes sensitive personal data protected by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and this is another piece of legislation that just be complied with. Employers must have clear policies for collecting, storing, and using mental health-related information (as well as other personal health information). Employees should be made aware of their rights regarding their personal data and how it will be processed, ensuring trust and transparency.
Supporting mental health in the workplace is a legal obligation for employers but more than that, is an integral part of creating a safe, supportive and productive work environment. By adhering to the legal considerations discussed above, employers can create a work environment that values the mental well-being of their employees. If you need support in ensuring your policies and procedures meet the legal requirements, or if you are an employee who requires support and advice, please contact our experienced Employment Law team here.