Katie Ash: Protecting employee mental health is more than just a workplace perk

As such a large part of an employee’s life is spent at work, it’s important that employers play an active role in ensuring that their workers develop and maintain a good quality of life and a healthy relationship with their place of work.

This is particularly important post pandemic, when it is widely acknowledged that many have suffered because of lockdowns, job uncertainty, and the mandate to work from home.

After all, healthy and well-motivated employees will have an equally positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of a business.

Recognising the potential trigger points for mental ill health and keeping communication lines open with employees is important.

For example, employers should keep an eye on staff workloads to ensure that they do not become too heavy, schedule in regular one-to-one sessions, and tailor management styles to suit the varying needs and personalities of employees.

Work can be stressful and the competitive, faced-paced nature of many industries is a definite contributor. When devising a strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of staff, encouraging a flexible approach to working and a more favourable work-life balance may be something to consider.

Making sure that your employees feel like they work in a caring and understanding workplace will often lead to fewer days of absence and greater efficiency and enthusiasm whilst at work.

With people becoming more conscious than ever around mental health and general wellbeing, employers who acknowledge this as part of the package they offer often secure the best candidates.

From private healthcare, to outdoor activities, there is a myriad of ‘perks’ that can be introduced that encompass actions being taken to alleviate workplace stresses as well as cope with any ill health that may arise.

In 2005, the government first introduced a ‘health, work and wellbeing initiative’ which outlined a comprehensive strategy for protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of those in employment.

From a legal perspective, employment law surrounding health and wellbeing in the workplace can overlap with HR functions, but in particular would provide the following: a safe and supportive working environment; a workplace free from bullying and harassment; a defined job role and clear responsibilities; and appraisals, feedback and opportunities for development.

Employers must recognise the needs of the business as well as the rights of employees when faced with a case relating to health and wellbeing.

If employees have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and are being treated unfairly because of this, they may be able to raise a claim for discrimination in an employment tribunal.

It’s important to note that the level of compensation in these types of claims is uncapped / unlimited, so it’s important to seek advice in relation to this as soon as possible.

Katie Ash is head of employment law at Banner Jones Solicitors