This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May), and this year the Mental Health Foundation is focusing on stress. Whilst not a mental health problem in itself, stress can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

According to the Foundation, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Although much good work is being done to try to encourage more openness and discussion on mental health issues, there remains a social stigma attached to mental ill health and many sufferers experience discrimination in various aspects of their lives.

As we spend a large proportion of our time at work, what happens during those hours is a major factor in determining our overall wellbeing. To help employers understand the issues and promote positive mental health in the workplace, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has guidance on supporting staff experiencing mental ill health. This contains sections on:

• the role of a manager;
• how to spot the signs of mental ill health;
• encouraging staff to develop their own Wellness Action Plans;
• talking to a team member who may be experiencing mental ill health;
• managing a team member who may feel unable to talk;
• supporting a team member during periods of mental ill health;
• supporting the rest of your team;
• approaching absence related to mental ill health;
• assisting a team member with their return to work; and
• approaching potential disciplinary or capability matters

Where an employee is experiencing mental ill health problems that are having a substantial and adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, the effect is long-term and the condition is likely to recur, they will qualify for protection as a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010. Employers therefore have a specific duty to make reasonable adjustments to their role in order to minimise any disadvantages they are experiencing as a result.

Workplace stress and mental health issues cannot be ignored. If you would like advice on developing mental health policies tailored to the needs of your workplace, we can help.

If you would like to discuss this or any other employment law matters, contact Samantha Glynn on 0121 698 2200

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