Positive Mental Health at Work

The provision of equal employment opportunities is a legal requirement of all businesses. It’s against the law for employers to discriminate on the basis of a disability. The Equality Act which became law in October 2010 protects employees from discrimination and includes legislation to cover all aspects of employment; from recruitment and selection right through to transfers, dismissal or redundancy.

A person is considered disabled under the Equality Act if an impairment (physical or mental) has a long term (usually >12 months) and substantial effect on their ability to complete normal day to day functions. All employees have the right not to be treated differently because of mental ill health.

Mental Health at Work

It is vital for employers to have an awareness of – and procedures to deal fairly with – mental health issues. Mental health issues can manifest in different forms. One of the most common forms is work-related stress which can lead to other issues such as depression and anxiety – and these could fall under the definition of disability. According to the HSE, in 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.

Work-related stress is predominantly caused by tight deadlines, too much work / pressure / responsibility, a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, violence and role uncertainty.

Creating a Policy

Expert advice should be sought when creating a positive mental health at work policy, which should contain a commitment to promoting and monitoring mental health at work. The policy should also acknowledge the importance of creating a safe environment for employees and their mental wellbeing, e.g. using reasonable efforts to ensure the workplace is free from bullying and harassment. The policy should stress what can be done to support staff with mental health problems and include the area of employing people with mental health problems.

Policy Content

The policy should contain clear information about its scope, how the policy functions alongside other HR policies like substance abuse or sickness absence, and commitment to health promotion and mental ill-health prevention, training procedures, monitoring and evaluation. Policies must comply with current employment legislation and consideration should be given to what is in the best interest of the business.

Policy Implementation & Management

Organisations without a dedicated HR department should seek guidance from an experienced HR partner when developing and implementing a positive mental health policy.  For more information on employment legislation, and for guidance with HR policies and procedures, please contact us.

Update October 2018: Further guidance on supporting mental health is available from Acas and the CIPD.

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