Making reasonable adjustments for employees with mental health problems
Guest blog by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind
Workplace wellbeing is increasingly at the top of employers’ agendas, and rightly so. After all, we all have mental health just as we all have physical health, and it fluctuates from good to poor. Employers have a responsibility to promote workplace wellbeing and help prevent poor mental health, and it’s in their interests to take workplace wellbeing seriously, as those that do report having more engaged, productive and loyal employees, who are less likely to need time off sick.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments for an employee who has a disability, which can include a mental health problem if it has a substantial, adverse, and long term effect on normal day-to-day activities. Typically, when it comes to mental health problems, these are small, inexpensive changes, such as more regular catch ups with managers, change of workspace, working hours, or breaks.
One challenge for employers is identifying employees who might be struggling with their mental health, particularly as we know that too often, people don’t feel comfortable talking about it.
We recently surveyed 15,000 employees from thirty trailblazing organisations as varied as Deloitte, Ark Conway Primary Academy, HMRC, the Environment Agency, Jaguar Land Rover and PepsiCo – taking part in Mind’s first Workplace Wellbeing Index. These organisations got involved in our benchmark of best policy and practice when it comes to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff because they’re committed to improving mental health in the workplace.
Only 12 per cent of the 15,000 surveyed said their mental health was currently poor or very poor. However, we found that only one in four (26 per cent) said they would be likely to seek support from their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem. That’s why it’s so important employers create an environment where staff can speak openly.
The Index is one of many ways that we work with HR professionals and line managers to help create mentally healthy workplaces. Typically we advise employers to focus on tackling the work-related causes of stress and poor mental health at work; supporting members of staff experiencing a mental health problem; and promoting wellbeing for all staff. We work with employers of all sizes and across a range of sectors to help them tackle the unique set of challenges they face in supporting the wellbeing of their staff. Lots of employers are concerned about the costs of implementing wellbeing initiatives, but investing in staff wellbeing saves money in the long run, and simple, inexpensive measures can make a huge difference.
Putting in place workplace wellbeing measures will benefit your wider workforce – whether staff have mental health problems, or not. Offering regular catch ups with managers gives staff the opportunity to voice any concerns – both personal and professional – and jointly come up with solutions. Wellness Action Plans (WAPs), are an effective tool for facilitating conversations about mental health, available free from our website. Jointly drawn up by managers and staff, they help identify what helps people stay well and what might trigger poor mental health, as well as identifying solutions.
Prioritising workplace wellbeing can help staff stay well, preventing them needing lots of time off sick, or even falling out of the workplace altogether. At Mind, we also recognise that sometimes people are unable to work due to their mental health and we are keen to help close the disability employment gap. The vast majority of people with mental health problems who are out of work tell us they want to work and would be able to do so with the right support. But they face many barriers in getting into and staying in work, including employer attitudes towards mental health and other disabilities. Mind’s CEO Paul Farmer is co-chairing a review into employment and mental health which we’ll be using as an opportunity to urge employers to play their part in helping people with mental health problems overcome those barriers. Forward-thinking employers recognise the benefits of recruiting and retaining a talented and diverse workforce, including people whose mental health or other disability may have prevented them from working previously.
HR professionals know only too well the unique organisational challenges faced when it comes to supporting the wellbeing of their staff. Mind can help employers of all sizes and sectors to highlight and promote good practice, identify any gaps in provision of wellbeing initiatives and provide support to help organisations do this even better. Our training courses, such as mental health awareness for line managers, can help employers better identify and support a direct report who might be struggling with stress and poor mental health. We also provide free information for employers and staff on mental health at work at www.mind.org.uk/work.
If you work for an employer that is passionate about promoting staff wellbeing, register your interest in next year’s Index by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, visiting www.mind.org.uk/workplace, or through our LinkedIn page.