Mental health in the workplace
9 October 2020 by Priya Patel
Tomorrow, October 10th 2020 marks World Mental Health Day, raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and what can be done to support those who need it. But what rights do employees have in the workplace when it comes to their mental health? And what can employers do to support employees dealing with mental health issues? Following on from this week’s Law Society Solicitor Chat, Priya Patel from the FJG’s Dispute Resolution team has provided some answers on a few frequently asked questions.
What rights do employees have in the workplace when it comes to their mental health?
All employers have a common law duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. They have a duty to see that reasonable care is taken to provide them with a safe place of work, safe tools and equipment, and a safe system of working. Employees suffering from long term mental health issues may not be understood properly by employers and their behaviours and any deficiencies in their working practices may need to be considered in light of protections which exist around their protested characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, depending on whether the employer was informed or ought to have known about there being a disability.
What counts as discrimination in the workplace?
Discrimination is generally the less favourable treatment of somebody on account of a protected characteristic. It may also manifest in both direct and indirect ways. Discrimination can also happen where something in consequence of a persons’ disability causes them to be treated differently. More can be found on the types of discrimination in our earlier blog post.
What can an employee do if they feel they’ve been discriminated against because of their mental health at work?
Employees should have regard to their workplace’s policy handbook in regard to mental health issues and if they feel that they have been discriminated against and wish to take formal action in regard to that, then filing a grievance may be advisable.
Are employees entitled to sick pay and time off work for mental health issues?
Those suffering from mental health issues may have a right to receive contractual sick pay if they are off work by reason of this. As to statutory sick pay, if an employee is incapacitated because of a mental health issue, then they may not be fit for work and may be eligible to receive statutory sick pay.
How can employers support employees with their mental health, including those working from home?
Since mental health is integral to how staff feel about their jobs, it may be in an employer’s interest to improve mental health awareness within its organisation, tackle the causes of work-related ill health promptly, and create a workplace culture which makes staff feel able to talk about their mental health and support staff who are experiencing mental ill-health.
Some undertakings choose to create mental health plans; designed to encourage and promote good mental health amongst all staff and create a culture of organisational awareness about mental health issues.