- Emily Perrin
Employment Law Update - May 2023
This month’s employment law update will cover mental health awareness week, mental health in the workplace, reasonable adjustments employers can make to support employees and completing a stress risk assessment.
Mental health awareness week runs from the 15th to the 21st of May. This year, the charity Mind are focusing on the impact that the cost of living is having on mental health. The focus on mental health has gained significant attention with its growing awareness of its impact on individuals and society as a whole. Recognising the importance of mental health, employment laws have been evolving to protect employees and promote supportive workplaces. Below, we explore the intersection of mental health and employment law, highlighting key provisions that safeguard employee wellbeing and foster a positive work environment. Anti-Discrimination Law The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination based on mental health. Employers are legally obliged to treat individuals with mental health conditions fairly and equally just like physical disabilities. This means that job applicants and employees should not face unfair treatment, harassment, or prejudice due to their mental health status. Employers in the UK have a legal requirement to not discriminate against any employee with a mental health illness that classifies as a disability. A mental health problem can be considered a disability by law if “it has a substantial and long-term effect on a person’s normal day to day activity” (Equality Act, 2010). A mental health issue can still be considered to be a disability with symptoms not being present all the time as they can change in intensity and frequency over time. If this is the case, the employer is expected to consider making reasonable adjustments. Reasonable Adjustments Employers have a duty of care to make reasonable adjustments to support those with mental health conditions. Reasonable adjustments are amendments an employer makes to remove or reduce barriers that hinder employees from effectively performing their roles and ensure they can access the same opportunities as their colleagues. They are specific to an individual person and can cover any area of work. Examples of reasonable adjustments are:
Provide flexible working arrangements.
Modify job duties.
Finding a different way to do something.
Physical changes to the work environment.
Provide equipment, services or support.
Acas provide guidance on reasonable adjustments that employers can make for those who are suffering with poor mental health.
Stress Risk Assessment
Employers have a responsibility to manage work related stress and prevent it from leading to mental health issues. A stress at work risk assessment is a legal requirement in the UK. It requires employers to look into specific risks that employees might face in the workplace and create a plan as to how they can mitigate those risks. This includes fostering a supportive work culture, promoting work-life balance, and providing access to mental health support resources. Only one risk assessment is needed to be completed for the whole company, not for each employee.
A stress risk assessment document should include:
What are the primary causes of workplace stress?
Who is most likely to be affected?
What are you doing to control the risks of workplace stress?
What reasonable action do you need to control the risks?
Who is responsible for each action and when does it need to be completed by?
According to HSE. there are six stress risk factors that are the primary cause of workplace stress.
Demand - workload, work patterns and work environment.
Control - how much ownership someone has over their duties at work.
Support - encouragement, recognition and resources provided by the employer.
Relationships – promoting a positive workplace culture.
Role - clear understanding of what the expectations are.
Change - how change is managed and communicated.
Below is a credible link to a stress risk assessment template: https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/risk-assessment-template-and-examples.htm Mental Health First Aid Mental health first aid has gained recognition as a valuable tool in workplaces Organisations are encouraged to train designated employees as Mental Health First Aiders. These individuals can provide initial support to colleagues experiencing mental health challenges, offering guidance, and signposting them to appropriate resources for further assistance. Whistleblowing Protection Employees who raise concerns about mental health issues or discriminatory practices in the workplace are protected under whistleblowing legislation. This protection encourages employees to come forward without fear of retaliation, ensuring that mental health concerns are addressed and resolved promptly. Mental health in the workplace is receiving the attention it deserves, and employment laws are adapting to ensure the protection and wellbeing of employees. By enforcing anti-discrimination laws, promoting reasonable adjustments, and prioritising health and safety obligations, employers can create a supportive work environment that embraces mental health awareness and fosters employee wellbeing. By embracing these laws and initiatives, organisations can play a pivotal role in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and creating positive, inclusive work cultures where employees can thrive. If you have any HR queries please give a member of the team a call today, on 01926 853388, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.arhrconsult.com for more information.