Mental health and the workplace during COVID-19

22-05-2020


The mental health and wellbeing of employees is very important to consider at the best of times, but particularly so at the moment given the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The global situation has swiftly changed ways of working for a considerable amount of the country’s population, prompting many to feel confused and anxious. To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) ACAS has published useful new guidance to support employees and workplaces, which you can access here: (Link: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health)

To support you and your workforce in these difficult times we have also prepared some guidance and best practice tips.

Employees

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you may find it hard to look after your mental health and wellbeing regardless of whether you are still working or been placed on furlough. To support yourself during this time, it is important to:

It is worthwhile to stay in touch with the workplace, whether that is your manager or a mental health representative or ‘champion’, to share any concerns about managing your workload, working around childcare responsibilities, or otherwise at an early stage. If you already have a mental health problem, it’s particularly important to talk to your manager about how you’re feeling. Your manager may be able to give you extra support or adapt your work, for example changing your start and finishing times.

Employers have a ‘duty of care’ towards their employees, which means they must provide a reasonable amount of support to your health, safety and wellbeing. Some workplaces maybe able to offer counselling, others may have a specified mental health ‘champion’, or they will be able to offer support in other ways and keeping communication open is key to this.

Employers

Employers and managers need to be aware of the additional pressures at the moment and sensitive to the fact that staff may need additional mental health support at the moment, particularly if they already have mental health problems. The Employer’s ‘duty of care’ means employers you must do all they reasonably can to support their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing.

Businesses should consider supporting their staff and encouraging managers to do so in the following ways:

If you believe a team member may be experiencing mental health issues, you can arrange a private conversation and encourage them to talk to you in a supportive manner. It may be difficult for the employee to discuss, so it is important to be patient, positive, understanding and reassuring and to sign post external help if appropriate. You will need to be clear that that the conversation will be confidential and that you will not share information unless there’s a essential reason to. If there is, you should be clear about who you will share it with.

If an employee’s mental health problem is considered a disability under the Equality Act, the workplace must consider making reasonable adjustments to help them carry out their job without being at a disadvantage. This could include:

Our employment team would be pleased to assist you if you have any concerns regarding the issues raised in this summary.


Julie Taylor

Partner
Employment Law

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