LEGAL EAGLE: Mental health in employment has never been so important

Mental health is major employment issue during lockdown.Mental health is major employment issue during lockdown.
Mental health is major employment issue during lockdown.
How much do you look after the mental health of your staff? Employment law solicitors at Tilly Bailey & Irvine explain how important this is.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report one in four people in the UK will experience mental health problems at some point. This ranges from minor anxieties or depression to serious cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Good mental health can often be linked to your work, and to a positive work/life balance. Work means financial stability, contact and interaction and keeps the mind active. Therefore, a healthy workplace can help to promote good mental health in its employees.

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Unfortunately, it was reported in 2017 that around 300,000 people with a long term mental health condition lose their jobs each year. Another study conducted by MIND stated “poor mental health at work is widespread with almost half (48%) of all people surveyed saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.”

The same study of more than 44,000 employees also revealed that “only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it, suggesting that as many as one in four employees is struggling in silence.”

Whilst most mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are short term, stress at work can exacerbate these pre-existing conditions, or be the cause them. Around 12.5 million working days are lost to work related stress, depression or anxiety. Work related stress can be caused by a number of things such as the workload of the individual, the work environment, relationships at work or lack of support.

Deloitte’s analysis suggests that mental ill health costs employers in the UK up to £42 billion each year. This is down to a downturn in productivity, and this can be aided by changes in attitudes or simply to roles and an ease of pressures applied. Talking to your staff in confidence will help offer support.

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So what are your obligations to employees? Employers have an implied common law duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act also imposes a duty on the employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. If the mental health issue goes unaddressed, it may lead to claims being brought, including, but not limited to, claims for personal injury, disability discrimination, constructive dismissal and health and safety breaches.

It is important to ensure that employees feel able to raise issues with their employers and that the employer provides a supportive environment. Having the right systems in place benefit not only your employees but also your organisation and business as a whole.

Tilly Bailey & Irvine has a team of specialist employment solicitors in Teesside. Contact your local legal advisor on 01429 350062 to speak to a Hartlepool solicitor.