This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, 15-21 May 2023. This week is a chance for us all to be more open about mental health, to talk, to listen and, to support each other.
With one in four of us likely to experience a mental health problem in any given year, it is important for everyone to feel comfortable talking openly about this both at home and at work. For those experiencing problems, you should feel empowered to seek help. For employers, it is important to create a supportive environment for your employees.
What can employers do?
Good employers know that a business is only as strong as its people. The wellbeing of staff is a fundamental element of how well a business functions or performs.
You may decide to use this week (or another in the future) to promote wellbeing in the workplace with a focus on mental health issues and what you as a business are already doing or will do to support employees.
- Reviewing your policies and procedures to ensure they support wellbeing, are up to date, legally compliant and are being actively followed in the workplace;
- Provide training to upskill managers in understanding and supporting employees suffering with mental illness;
- Provide training to all staff to assist in understanding and reducing mental health stigma;
- Asking staff to volunteer to become Mental Health First Aiders and support them with appropriate training.
Is this really an issue for employers?
Poor mental health can have a significant impact on an employee’s life and their ability to perform their best at work. Employers, therefore, need to take their responsibilities seriously and support good mental health at work.
Latest HSE statistics support that mental health issues are affecting workforces and in turn, your business. An estimated 17 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22. This is over half of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.
Businesses should be mindful that mental health issues may be an impairment which is deemed to be a qualifying disability under the Equality Act 2010. This may mean that you are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments where elements of workplace an employee at a substantial disadvantage.
Compensation for successful disability discrimination claims is uncapped, with the maximum award made in 2021/2022 of £225,893 and an average award of £26,172. If claims are issued, you will also incur the business time and expense in defending a claim and attending a hearing.
Further, by supporting your employees, you will stand out as a good employer and an employer that someone wants to work for, meaning staff want to be at work and will be productive.
Wear It Blue
West Kind Mind, an independent charity affiliated to Mind, provides excellent support to individuals, businesses and communities, are once again supporting MHAW with its ‘Wear It Blue’ campaign. The campaign encourages workplaces, schools, sports teams, individuals and families to pick a day and wear blue for better mental health, raising awareness and vital funds to support local people to get well, stay well and thrive with better mental health.
At Warners, staff are being encouraged to wear blue, to talk, listen and support each other. The team are also supported throughout the year with nominated staff to talk to, an App which provides wellbeing, meditation, breathing and mindfulness information and, if required, sessions with a qualified counsellor at the firm’s expense. What are you doing to support your staff?
Have you asked someone how they are today but not really listened to their answer? Talking about mental health isn’t always easy, but it is important and may really change things for the person you are talking to. Always try to make space in your day for conversation.