Monday, 1 February 2016

Employer health obligations: mental, not just physical!

Mental health in the workplace is a topic that has been under scrutiny recently. As work environments become more pressurised and employees work longer hours, stress related illnesses are becoming more prominent. According to Busy Bees Benefits, the spotlight has been shone on employers as mental health seems to be slipping through the net when it comes to legal health obligations.

Despite mental health campaigns coming to the forefront on social media, there are still a large amount of employers who shy away from their responsibilities. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Employers should ask themselves what plans they have in place when an issue occurs. If HR managers don’t have the time or skills best equipped to solve a mental health issue, one option is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – this scheme provides around the clock telephone counselling and an online help system.

That being said, every employee is different and mental health issues are varied. EAPs are great and will suit a large majority of staff, but there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all scheme. An EAP should work as part of a greater strategy. The best way to combat mental health issues is to introduce an open door policy, create a fair working environment and communicate any schemes you have in place to ensure maximum take up.

“We’re all well aware of employers’ responsibilities to maintain their employees’ physical health – and we’ve seen the horror stories when they don’t,” commented Louise Wesley, Operations Director of Busy Bees Benefits. “But often, mental health is side-lined and employees don’t know how to seek help when their work life becomes a bit too stressful.

“Recent research states that just 5% of employees believe their employer is helpful when dealing with mental health issues. Clearly, this is not good enough and work still needs to be done in this area. Whether it’s introducing a new scheme or communicating those that you already have in place, employers should focus on mental health improvements.

“All aspects of health affect an employees’ productivity in the workplace! The last thing an employer needs is extended levels of sickness and absence leave,” she concluded. 

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