13 December 2021

Health & Safety - Mental Health in the Workplace

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The importance and utility of effective management of mental health in the workplace was already gaining traction with a number of employers well before the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now generally accepted that investing in promoting and supporting a happier, healthier and more productive workforce is both good for people and good for business.

Two years on from the initial outbreak; the pandemic continues to significantly affect how, when and where many of us work. While the impact these changes may have had on workers’ wellbeing is yet to be fully assessed, employers should take the opportunity to consider their approach to mental health in the workplace. Helpfully, practical and straightforward advice and guidance is available.

The Health and Safety Executive for Great Britain (“HSE”) recently launched the campaign, “Working Minds” to help employers manage mental health in the workplace. The Working Minds campaign is targeted at small businesses with a number of simple, straightforward steps that can be implemented. These are referred to as the “5R’s”:

  • Reach out
  • Recognise
  • Respond
  • Reflect
  • (Make it) Routine

HSE continues to also provide resources and guidance, suitable for all employers, on implementing its previously developed set of management standards for mental health. The management standards focus on six key areas that can be associated with poor mental health, namely: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (“HSENI”) also advocates the management standards approach and offers assistance to businesses through its Mental Well-being at Work Advisory Service.

HSE warns that the prevalence of work-related stress and poor mental health risks becoming a “health and safety crisis” in the workplace. The regulator urges employers to help create a “…culture change across Britain’s workplaces, to ensure psychological risks are treated the same as physical ones in health and safety risk management”. At present, there are limited examples where the regulators have taken enforcement action against employers as a result of failure to manage mental health or work-related stress. Whilst regulators may continue to adopt a largely supportive role, there is always a possibility that more robust action, including issuing warnings or Improvement Notices, could be used to tackle this issue in future.

If you would like any further information or advice relating to health and safety law, please contact Ashleigh Birkett or Ben Johnston from the Health & Safety team at Carson McDowell.

*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.

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