A LEADING North-east HR and employment law team is fighting the stigma of mental ill health in the workplace.
Empire – which has offices in Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and London – is holding a mental health awareness for managers workshop in on 9th June in Aberdeen, aimed at assisting employers raise the profile for mental wellbeing in their teams.
The course, which is matched with the Health Working Lives Mentally Healthy Workplace training, will promote a culture of disclosure, identify the causes of work-related mental ill health and help managers support employees who are experiencing poor mental health.
Elaine Masson, mental health and wellbeing trainer, said: “An estimated one in six employees experience poor mental health, yet employees may be unwilling to talk about stress, anxiety and depression openly, fearful that their employer may not be supportive.
“Increasingly, employees with poor mental health are more likely to attend exhibit ‘presenteeism’ – attending work despite being unwell. This may lead to underperformance and exacerbate the problem for the organisation.
“When considering employee physical and mental health, employers must to be mindful of their obligations of a duty of care under health and safety legislation, as well as their legal obligations of the Equality Act.”
Adds Ms Masson: “Mental ill health may be considered to be a disability if it has a long-term effect on a person’s day-to-day activity. Normal activity is defined as something a worker does every day, for example using a computer or interacting with people.
“Whilst many people with a diagnosis of mental ill health can perform at a high level without support, businesses should be aware of potential issues and have in place a risk management approach to support employees and avoid costly discrimination claims.”
She continued: “Employers should work with mentally and physical health issues in the same way – by agreeing communication arrangements during absence, identifying workplace triggers and agreeing a written plan of reasonable adjustments if necessary. This is particularly important in the case of mental ill health where these agreements can be set up at a time when the employee is well.”
Ms Masson added: “According to NHS figures, almost 50 per cent of long-term absences from work are as a result of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
“People with mental health issues often fear that, even if they have made a good recovery, their symptoms will be made worse by going back to work. However, employment is a key aspect of recovery, providing purpose and social contact.”
Mental health at work – be aware
- Be aware of how widespread and misunderstood mental health issues are
- Look out poor performance, unexplained absences, or lack of communication – these may be due to mental ill health or some other unrelated reason. Opening a discussion with an employee is a key first step.
- Offer a breakout room to allow employees some quiet, space if needed
- Develop a rapport with employees to help them find strategies to cope or avoid triggers
- Signpost staff with mental ill health to relevant specialists
- If an employee is off sick, keep in touch
- Look at offering flexible hours – allowing an employee to return part-time in the short-term
- Be aware of the law – you are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to help employees with a disability stay in work or get back to work
The Empire Mental Health Awareness for Managers workshop is taking place on 9 June 2016 at Empire House, Grandholm Drive, Aberdeen, between 10am and 4pm.
For more information, contact Elaine Masson on 01224 701383.
Delegates will be issued with a certificate as evidence for Criterion 6 of the Silver Healthy Working Lives Award (Mentally healthy workplace training for managers).
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