Limiting the effects of stress and mental illness in the workplace

In May, we marked Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, and a study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that a greater proportion of younger people reported experiencing stress as compared to older generations.

Whether young people are genuinely more stressed than older generations, or whether they are simply more likely to speak out about the problem, the signs are that the effects of stress and other mental illnesses on employees and employers are likely to increase with the introduction of a new generation of workers into the workforce.

Last year, we learned that mental ill health, including stress and anxiety, has now overtaken back pain as the most common reason for a GP signing someone off as unfit to work.

It is therefore crucial for employers to know what to do when faced with an employee who is or might be suffering from a mental health issue. The following guidelines are the absolute basics in this area.

1. Communicate with your staff, and encourage them to speak to you if they are facing any particular problems at work which may be affecting their ability to cope with work.

2. Train your managers to identify and support employees who may be suffering from a mental health issue, including stress, anxiety and depression.

3. Consult medical professionals, including Occupational Health, to ensure you are properly informed about what the problem is and how it may affect or be affected by the employee’s job.

4. Make reasonable adjustments for employees with mental illness to help them remain in work. In cases where such illness may be long-running and severe enough to amount to a disability, there is a legal obligation on you to do so.

5. Review the situation regularly: mental health issues can recur even if they seem to have disappeared, so it is important not to let things slide.