Mental Health in the Workplace: Legal Frameworks and the responsibilities of the Employer
The ambit of mental health has gained increasing recognition within the workplace as a vital aspect of the overall employee well-being. Employers now face the important task of navigating the intersection between employment law and the provision of support and accommodations for mental health concerns.
In light of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September, Jas Dubb, Associate Solicitor in our Employment Team, probes into the legal scope of mental health in the workplace, shedding light on both the legal obligations and the responsibilities of employers.
Recognising the Significance of Mental Health
Mental health issues can profoundly impact an employee’s performance, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. The acknowledgment of mental health’s significance is reflected not only in society but also within the framework of UK employment law.
Legal Frameworks for Mental Health
- Equality Act 2010: The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) is a fundamental piece of legislation that prohibits discrimination and promotes equality in various domains, including employment. It recognises mental health conditions as disabilities if they have a substantial, long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. As such, employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that employees with mental health disabilities are not disadvantaged.
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: Under this act, employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of their employees. This extends to mental health concerns. Employers are expected to provide a work environment that does not jeopardise employees’ mental health and to take preventive measures to minimise stress that could negatively affect mental well-being.
- Creating a Supportive Culture: Employers should foster a culture that destigmatises mental health issues and encourages open conversations. Establishing an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns can be a significant step toward providing effective support.
- Reasonable Adjustments: If an employee discloses a mental health condition that qualifies as a disability under the EqA, employers are obligated to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs. These adjustments could include changes in working hours/work pattern, responsibilities, or the provision of additional resources to manage their mental health condition effectively.
- Training and Awareness: Offering training programs to managers and employees about mental health awareness can facilitate a better understanding of these issues. This awareness can contribute to a more empathetic and supportive work environment.
- Confidentiality: Maintaining the confidentiality of an employee’s mental health condition is crucial. Employers should ensure that information about an employee’s mental health is handled sensitively and only disclosed to relevant individuals on a need-to-know basis.
- Monitoring and Reviewing Policies: Regularly reviewing and updating policies related to mental health support. This shows a commitment to the well-being of employees. These policies should be aligned with both the EqA and the broader principles of employee health and safety.
Mental health in the workplace is a multifaceted topic that imposes a understanding of UK employment law and a proactive approach to employee well-being.
Jas, Associate Solicitor, says:
“Employers who engage and embracing their responsibilities, can create a workspace that not only adheres to the law but also promotes a culture of understanding, compassion, and support for mental health issues, contributing to a workplace that values its employees as whole individuals.”
For further help and advice, please contact Jas Dubb, Associate Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership on 0121 733 8000 or via email at [email protected]. You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at [email protected].