Last week was #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek in the UK. In Tilly Bailey & Irvine’s latest article, the Teesside-based law firm explains why businesses should always take consideration of mental health in the workplace and its impacts.

Mental health is an ongoing problem and should be at the forefront of all employer’s mind at all times.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), one in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point. The problem could range from a minor case of anxiety, a moderate case of depression or up to a serious case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Stressful Stats

Work has long been established as being crucial to good mental health. Work provides an individual with social contact, financial stability and also keeps the mind active. Therefore, a healthy workplace can help to promote good mental health in its employees.

However, it was reported in 2017 that an astonishing amount of around 300,000 people with a long term mental health condition lose their jobs each year. Another study conducted by MIND has revealed that “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.”

The Consequences

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. According to a survey conducted in 2016/2017, 12.5 million working days were 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.

The Chief Executive of Mind, Mr Paul Farmer said “every employer in the UK has a responsibility to support employees with mental health problems and promote the mental wellbeing of their entire workforce”.

Deloitte’s analysis suggests that mental ill health costs employers in the UK up to £42 billion each year. Half of this is accounted for by “presenteeism”, i.e. when the employees are physically present at work but are less productive due to their poor mental health.

Your Obligations?

As an employer, what are your obligations towards your 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.

SherReene Cheah, a solicitor at Tilly Bailey & Irvine Law Firm, says:“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.”

If you require any advice with regards mental health in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact our Specialist Employment team here at Tilly Bailey & Irvine’s firm of Teesside solicitors and lawyers on 0333 444 4422.