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Government report puts mental health in the spotlight

17th November 2017

Addressing mental health issues in the workplace will help reduce the costs to employers associated with short and long term absences said an employment lawyer this week.

Following a government report into mental health and employers, Charanjeet Bhogal of West Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons said all too often severe forms of mental ill-health were still going unnoticed.

“The modern commercial world and the global interconnectedness of business has increased the speed at which employees must work. As a result, some suggest this is leading to increased levels of stress, anxiety and a general risk to the mental health of employees.”

He went on to say that research suggests mental health at work is still rarely addressed and continues to attract particular stigmas.

In January 2017, the Government commissioned research into mental health at work and in October 2017 published its report Thriving at work: The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers.

Charanjeet said: “One of the first and most striking findings of the report is that 300,000 people with long term mental health conditions lose their jobs each year.

“The cost to employers of mental health conditions is anywhere between £33 and £44 billion; the cost to the economy anywhere between £74 and £99 billion. Clearly, the impact of mental health in the workplace and the failure to manage it effectively, is extensive.”

The report sets out six core mental health standards that provide employers with a principled framework through which good mental health can be managed and promoted:

  • produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  • develop mental health awareness among employees
  • encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  • provide your employees with good working conditions
  • promote effective people management
  • routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

In addition, it contains enhanced standards in respect of public sector employers and those in the private sector with more than 500 employees including:

  • increasing transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting;
  • demonstrating accountability;
  • improving the disclosure process; and
  • ensuring provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help.

Charanjeetadded: “One area in which many employers tend to trip up is the manner in which employees with mental health conditions are treated. Some employers think of mental health conditions such as stress and anxiety as excuses for not being able to handle pressure. The risk with this frame of thinking is that it can lead to claims such as disability discrimination as well potentially causing further harm to an employee’s mental health.”

Workplace mental health, he said, should not be ignored by employers but should be of primary concern.

“A ‘good’ workplace that promotes mental health is more likely to enjoy the benefits of a well-motivated and productive workforce. Employers should as a starting point, assess their current approach to mental health with a view to implementing the six core mental health standards suggested within the report. Mental health is no longer a taboo subject and should be addressed with the same level of care and commitment as physical health issues.”

Addressing mental health issues will help to reduce the costs associated with short term and long term absences and in addition, minimise the risk of any potential claims/complaints such as for disability discrimination.

Higgs & Sons is one of the Midlands' leading law firms and is headquartered at the Waterfront Business Park in the heart of the Black Country. A modern, forward thinking practice which employs more than 230 people offering a wide range of legal services, Higgs is proud of its heritage and remains true to its client centred values and commitment to quality.

 

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