Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace

October 2018 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace

October 2018 saw World Mental Health Day That recent event presents an opportune time to look at the implications of mental health in the workplace. Because if you’re an employer, the mental health of your staff is part of your responsibility.

Taking care of your staff

Developments in Mental Health awareness are placing the onus on employers to create an atmosphere in which your staff can feel comfortable in approaching you about their mental health concerns. The mental health charity, MIND carried out research demonstrating that, in many workplaces, employees are fearful of expressing their problems.  This is bad for them and costly for you in all manner of ways as they point out on their website:

  • When asked how they’d been affected by workplace stress, over 21 percent of respondents – that’s one in five – stated they’d taken time off sick to avoid going to work.


  • Asked how they’d been affected by workplace stress. 14 per cent admitted to resigning and a further 42 per cent stated they had resigned over workplace stress.


  • 30 per cent of staff that MIND spoke to disagreed with the statement ‘‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’ and – on a positive note –


  • A whopping 56 per cent of employers stated they wanted to do more to improve staff wellbeing but worried they lacked the right guidance and training.

If you are an employer, the MIND website has lots of great free resources to help you here.

Mental health scrabble tiles

The Law and Mental Health in the Workplace

Although the term ‘mental health’ is not, in itself, a legal definition, it’s clear that employers face a legal obligation to act to get a handle on workplace mental health and meet the legal definition of disability.

But first, what do we mean when we speak of ‘Mental Health’?

Personnel Today, in their article on the law and workplace mental health, defines it as: ‘a continuum that includes emotional well-being, mental health conditions and mental illnesses.’ As they state, mental health fluctuates in the same way as mental health. Though of course, we all have a different experience of mental health.

Personnel Today share several headline statistics on workplace mental health. For example:

  1. One in six workers suffer from anxiety, depression and unmanageable stress each year.
  2. 74% of people with a mental health problem for more than a year are out of work.
  3. 55% of those with depression or anxiety for more than a year are out of work. And – of great concern …
  4. … 49% of workers spoken to stated that they’d be uncomfortable disclosing a mental health issue at their workplace.

Difficult reading?? Even more difficult is the realisation that, in economic terms these statistics translate to 2015 seeing 18 million absence days from mental health conditions, and workplace mental ill-health cost.

The Employer’s Role

The Health and Safety Executive website has information for employers concerning stress and mental health in the workplace – much of which concerns itself with:

The Stevenson Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review

As the HSE website states: In 2017, the government commissioned Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) to independently review the role employers can play to better support individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace.  What the ‘Thriving at Work’ report does is to set out a framework of core standards/action that it recommends employers of all sizes, put into place.

The review designed these standards to help employers improve the mental health of their workplace and help individuals with mental health conditions to thrive – not only survive.

If you act on work-related stress, whether it be via the HSE standards or a similar approach, you’ll meet parts of the core standards framework and:

  • Form part of a mental health at work plan
  • Raise awareness, reduce stigma and promote communications
  • Provide a means to monitor actions and outcomes.

The Management Standards

You’ll find full details of the HSE’s management standards here.  But in brief they are:

  • Demands– Including issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control– how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support– Including encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships– Including promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role– whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change– how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

So there you have it – an overview of the employer’s role in regard to workplace mental health.

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