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Looking after staff mental health

Published 16 Oct 2022

Mental Health challenges affects everyone to varying extents. While different people have different tolerances, life pressures and coping strategies, work pressures and the physical workplace can present extra stresses, affecting people's ability to cope overall.

As an employer you have a duty of care under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) to provide a safe and healthy working environment and ensure workplace pressures aren't unreasonably adding to staff stresses. Failures in this regard can potentially lead to successful personal grievances, low staff morale, low productivity, resignations and consequently a high staff turnover.

Stressors in the workplace can be physical and psychological, and genuine risk assessments in recognition of this should be undertaken. The more traditional risk factors such as hazardous or dangerous work, noise and physical safety steps are often addressed, but sometimes the mental or psychological ones are overlooked and even ignored.

Some of which include;
  • Consistently high workloads and/or pace of work with little or no chance to rest and recover.
  • Unclear job requirements and constantly changing priorities.
  • Employees feeling like they're not part of the team.
  • Low levels of trust, lack of support, and unresolved conflict.
  • Changes at work that haven't been well managed.
  • Bullying, harassment or threatening behaviors
Employees claiming time off for stress falls under the provisions of sick leave. If staff claim this, it should be treated accordingly, but further, the employer should subsequently take steps to address the issues which potentially led to the situation. Unchecked stress can lead ultimately to mental harm, which once again could manifest to a successful personal grievance.

Ensure your company has a policy to deal with the presentation of such issues.
Such a policy should be used in conjunction with your workplace risk assessments, bullying and harassment policies.

Larger employers and corporates often offer staff funding around health care options, support, employee assistance programmes and extra time off. This is optional, can always be considered, but under law no requirement to do so. In law the employer is required to provide a healthy and safe work environment as far as is reasonably practicable, which includes physical and psychological risks.

A mental health/wellbeing policy template is available in the policy section in the Library of the Employers Toolbox, alternatively non-members may wish to consider purchasing our policy pack for this and many other useful and recommended employer policies.