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Mental Health at Work – How can you raise awareness?

BY Donald MacKinnon
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

It has recently been reported that a third of all fit notes issued by GPs are for mental health issues. It is now the most common reason for absence ahead of musculoskeletal problems. The Royal College of Psychiatrists have said they found the findings alarming and have encouraged more to be done to get people back to work.

There was a 14% rise in notes directly relating to stress and anxiety between 2015 and 2017. The study which looked at 12 million fit notes over a two-and-a-half-year period found that half did not have a formal diagnosis. It is maybe not surprising to read that employees signed off for mental health problems were off sick for longer than those with other illnesses.

In response to these figures Rachel Suff of CIPD warned that technology could be a contributing factor to the rise in mental health cases. She states:

“The line between work and home has become more blurred over recent decades; technology can support flexible working, which can support better wellbeing, but it can also encourage a 'never switching off' culture.”

Healthy Working Lives suggest that employers can consider introducing the following measures to ensure that they are doing the best they can to help reduce the chance of mental health problems in their business;

  • Introduce Flexible working options
  • Have ‘Mental Health’ trained managers
  • Raise awareness and create a culture to encourage open discussions about mental health issues
  • Involve employees in decision making
  • Implement mental health and wellbeing policies and procedures
  • Introduce stress management procedures
  • Provide access to employee assistance programmes and occupational health
  • Have regular meetings with managers
  • Introduce performance management processes
  • Conduct return to work interviews
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