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Following on from Mental Health Awareness week ,Tom Evans, associate at DTM Legal, outlines 5 considerations to create a mentally healthy workplace.

Where an individual is suffering from a health issue (not just a mental health one), employers need to be aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Not everyone who suffers from a mental health issue will fall within the protection of the Act. However, employers should be sensitive to disability discrimination legislation.

To help you and your managers in this area we recommend that regardless of workplace type, industry or size that you adopt a set of mental health core standards (some employers can and should go further.)

  1. Lead from the Top
    Ensure that your senior managers have a real awareness of mental health issues, and know your policies and best practice guidance.
  2. Train all staff 
    You can have really well trained managers but sometimes people will just prefer to speak with a colleague. In such cases, these colleagues should know what support is available, and how to access it.
    Consider, also, whether staff (or line managers, at the very least) ought to receive Mental Health First Aid training.
  3. Raise awareness
    Use events like Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 May) or World Mental Health Day (10 October every year) to promote awareness around your business.
    Businesses that treat their employees fairly, work hard to promote staff health and wellbeing, and create a positive and supportive working environment are businesses you want to work with.
  4. Create an open door policy
    Consider having a Mental Health Policy in place and, importantly, use it.
    You could also consider: Implementing an Employee Assistance Program, publicising and promoting your occupational health provider around the workplace and register your interest for the Workplace Wellbeing Index 2018/2019.
    (This index is a benchmark of current best policy and practice, enabling employers to assess what they are doing well when dealing with mental health in the workplace, and where there is room for improvement. It also provides recommendations for employers to follow.)
  5. Communication
    Consider the extent to which keeping in touch with an absent employee is appropriate. Does the employee need space and time (particularly if work has been a contributing factor in their ill-health)?

However you do it, you must keep the lines of communication open. When an employee is ready to return to work consider whether a phased return is appropriate and on what terms. You should also consider whether any workplace adjustments might be appropriate.

If you would like any further information or advice, please call our Employment Team.

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