An employer's guide to mental health

Posted Monday 4th October 2021

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One impact of the pandemic is the increased focus on mental health in the workplace. As the division between work and home continues to blur, and phrases such as ‘Zoom fatigue’ and ‘burn-out’ remain commonplace, it is important to understand the role your employer has in providing a supportive workplace.

Employer Obligations

In the UK, employers have a common law duty of care to employees to do all they reasonably can to support their health and safety, which includes employees’ mental health.

While there is no legal definition of ‘mental health’, it is generally understood to be the emotional state in which you cope with the normal pressures of everyday life and can fluctuate at any time due to personal circumstances and pressures.

How can Employers Demonstrate their Duty of Care?

Employers can demonstrate their duty of care towards employees’ mental wellbeing in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Ensuring staff do not work excessive hours
  • Providing break-out spaces for rest and quiet
  • Undertaking risk assessments and staff surveys
  • Providing confidential channels of communication
  • Putting adequate policies and procedures in place

By implementing such actions, employers can create a supportive work environment in which staff can confidently raise their mental health concerns. By opening a dialogue in this way, employees are likely to enjoy improved morale in the workplace, in addition to requiring less time off for a mental health issue.

Recently, companies such as Nike, LinkedIn and Bumble have given employees a week of paid leave to ensure they mentally unwind and destress in light of the pressures and difficulties of the pandemic. While such initiatives remain far from the norm, they indicate a growing awareness of the importance to prioritise mental health in the workplace.

For more information about mental health issues and the support available to employees, visit the Mental Health Foundation website.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.

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