As an HR professional, you may be wondering what your responsibilities are when it comes to employee mental health in the workplace. As an employee, you might be wondering what your company’s policy is on mental health and how it might affect you, or exactly what further support you can get.
At Great Minds At Work, we are committed to creating mentally healthy workplaces. which is why we have put together this guide to HR & Mental Health, covering:
- Responsibilities as an HR professional when it comes to employee mental health
- The different types of support available through the HR department to employees with mental health issues
- Mental health policies and how they can benefit both employers and employees.
What is HR’s Responsibility For Workplace Mental Health?
HR departments have a duty of care to their employees. This means that they need to take reasonable steps to ensure their health and safety while they are at work, which includes mental health issues as well as physical health and safety.
This could include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or a number of other mental health conditions. It is important to remember that not all mental health issues will be visible or obvious, and some people may not want to talk about their condition with their employers.
Because of this, it’s important to recognise the importance of having an open and supportive culture in your workplace, where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work without fear of discrimination or judgement.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace starts with the HR department. HR has a responsibility to create and maintain an open and supportive environment, and to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equally. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what this means.
How Can HR Professionals Support Mental Health in the Workplace?
Understand the Equality Act 2010
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to support employees who are struggling with mental illness as well as physical disability and provide reasonable adjustments to help them stay in employment.
The first step to supporting employees with mental illness is understanding the Equality Act and what it means for the workplace. This will help to identify when an employee might need extra support, and what kind of support they are entitled to.
Create and present your business case
To provide the adequate support, training and resources that will allow the workforce to better manage their mental health, you’ll need support from the top.
This means creating and presenting a business case for investing in workplace mental health and why it is important for your organisation.
Your business case should focus on the positive impact that investment in employee wellbeing can have, such as reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, improving employee retention rates, and reducing long-term absence.
To build a case for workplace wellbeing, you can utilise the HMRC Workplace Wellness Tool to calculate your company’s mental health-related absenteeism and presenteeism costs, as well as the potential returns on investing in a company mental health initiative.
These figures can then be presented to senior management, along with a proposal for how they could be improved by investing in workplace mental health.
Promote positive mental health with a culture change
Positive wellbeing at work can come in the form of a healthy work-life balance, talking openly about mental health, and creating an inclusive culture where employees feel valued and supported.
There are a number of small changes that you can make to promote positive mental health in your workplace, such as:
- Encouraging open communication about mental health
- Providing employee assistance programmes (EAPs)
- Promoting work-life balance with flexible hours
- Encouraging employees to take regular breaks
Making these small changes can have a big impact on employee wellbeing, and it will show employees that you’re committed to supporting their mental health.
Clarify your reasonable adjustments policy
As part of the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally required to provide reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, including mental illness or mental health issues.
To support employees living with mental health conditions or experiencing mental ill-health, it’s vital that you have a clear company reasonable adjustments policy.
This policy should detail what adjustments can be made to help employees stay in work, such as flexible working arrangements, reasonable changes to job roles, and access to support services.
Your reasonable adjustments policy should be easily accessible to all employees, and you should make sure that all new employees are made aware of it during their induction.
Train your workforce
One of the best ways to support employees with mental health issues is to train your workforce in Mental Health Awareness. This training will equip your employees with the basic knowledge and skills they need to identify, understand and help those experiencing mental ill-health in the workplace.
Mental Health Awareness training makes a great option for company-wide training, as it can be easily adapted to suit different business needs. It’s also a cost-effective way to support your employees, as it doesn’t require any specialised equipment or technology.
Investing in Business Mental Health Training will show your employees that you’re committed to supporting their mental wellbeing, and it will give them the skills they need to identify and support colleagues who might be struggling.
Create a resource centre
To raise awareness of work-related stress and mental health, a resource centre can be a valuable addition to your workplace. This is a space where employees can go to find information and resources on mental health awareness, stress, and wellbeing. Your resource centre could include:
- Mental health policy documents
- Information on how to access support services through work or in your personal life
- Stress management resources
- Wellbeing tips and advice
The resource centre should be easily accessible to all employees, and it should be regularly updated with new information.
Engage your leadership team
Leading by example is one of the most effective ways to promote positive mental health in the workplace.
A leadership team should be engaging with employees on mental health issues, and they should be setting the tone for how these issues are discussed and managed within the organisation. To engage a leadership team, you can:
- Encourage them to talk openly about their own experiences with mental health if they feel comfortable doing so
- Provide them with training on how to support employees with mental health issues
- Encourage them to take a proactive approach to promote positive mental health in the workplace.
Training managers, senior leaders, and line managers in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a great way to ensure that they’re equipped to support employees with mental health issues.
Becoming trained Mental Health First Aiders will give your leadership team the skills they need to identify, understand and help those experiencing mental ill-health in the workplace.
MHFA training is an ideal solution to engage your leadership team, guiding them through the process of recognising and responding to mental health issues or crises.
HR & Mental Health FAQs
How do I talk to HR about mental health?
If you are experiencing a mental health issue, stress in your working life, or any other difficulties that are affecting your work, it is important to talk to someone about it.
Your first point of contact should be your line manager, who can provide support and guidance. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your line manager, or if you feel that your issue is not being resolved, you can also speak to HR.
Is talking to HR confidential?
Disclosing a mental health condition to HR is confidential. HR will not disclose this information to anyone without your consent unless there is a concern for your safety or the safety of others. In fact, talking about your mental health at work can be beneficial to you and those around you.
Do employers have a duty of care to employees’ mental health?
Yes. Employers have a legal duty of care to their employees, which includes taking reasonable steps to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.
This means that employers need to take action to identify and manage risks to employee mental health and provide the relevant support to those who are experiencing mental ill-health.
What is an employee assistance programme?
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are confidential counselling services that are provided to employees to support them with personal or work-related issues. EAPs can provide support for a range of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, and depression.
How do you accommodate an employee with anxiety?
If an employee has anxiety, there are a few things that you can do to accommodate them:
- Allow them to work from home (if possible)
- Offer flexible working hours (if possible)
- Make sure their workload is manageable
- Give them regular breaks throughout the day.
How can HR promote better mental health at work?
Poor mental health can be directly impacted by a negative working environment. As an HR professional, it’s important to create a workplace that promotes good mental health and wellbeing.
By following the steps outlined above, you can create a mentally healthy workplace where employees feel supported and valued.
Looking For Expert Accredited Business Mental Health Training?
At Great Minds At Work, we specialise in delivering expert accredited business mental health training. Our courses are designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to create a mentally healthy workplace.
With a range of training courses and options ranging from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to Mental Health Aware and Suicide First Aid (SFA), we have something to suit every business.