Managing the mental wellbeing of employees is a matter of growing concern for many business owners, as the stress of the last 18 months has taken its toll on the workforce.
A 2020 Perkbox survey called The 2020 UK workplace stress survey suggests that an astonishing 79% of British adults commonly experience work-related stress to some degree with lockdown enforced workplace disconnect, isolation, and a loss of control contributing to a surge in stress levels.
But with UK businesses now on the verge of a potential mental health emergency, what can employers do to better protect their interests and those of their employees?
Employers are legally responsible for the health and safety of their employees, both physically and mentally, and are bound by several laws including The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
These laws dictate that employers must carry out workplace risk assessments to identify any potential risks and to take, as far as is reasonably practicable, any measures which may control or reduce such risks.
Such actions that may be helpful include introducing flexible working hours, a work from home policy, or a hybrid working policy, scheduling regular one-to-ones with line managers or department heads to establish any concerns, maintaining an open-door policy so employees know they can speak to someone at any time, and making counselling services available.
Other helpful actions include providing employees with additional support or training of either a personal or professional nature, if required or requested, disseminating regular business briefing communications to ensure everyone feels involved, holding frequent team-building or wellbeing events for staff to build social interaction, providing resilience training, placing a maximum cap on working hours, and considering psychometric testing when recruiting or promoting to fully assess the suitability of the candidate.
Sophie Wahba is a solicitor in the employment law team at Wright Hassall