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Managing Mental Health At Work - A Guide for Employers 

Mental wellbeing can be one of the most difficult issues to manage in the workplace for employers. Mental health is essentially how we feel about ourselves and others, impacting on our confidence and our ability to control our lives. More than likely we, or someone we know, will be affected by a strain on our mental health. It can be temporary or permanent with varying conditions being experienced. Recent research from Accenture in the UK revealed that nine out of ten employees have personally experienced mental health challenges or know someone who has experienced mental health challenges .
The cost of mental health issues to business, society, employers and the individual is significant. In 2008 the Mental Health Commission report The Economics of Mental Health Care in Ireland estimated the direct annual cost of poor mental health in Ireland at €3 billion or 2% of GNP . These costs include loss of potential labour supply, unemployment, absenteeism and reduced productivity in the workplace.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) stress, anxiety and depression are the leading causes of long-term absence for non-manual workers and the recent difficult economic climate has exacerbated stress levels in the workplace. Under equality and health and safety legislation, there is an obligation on employers to support and accommodate the needs of the employee experiencing mental health difficulties.
More people are openly discussing their mental health issues than ever before, but stigma still surrounds the topic in the workplace. It is still considered a taboo subject with employers reluctant to tackle the issues. Accenture UK research showed that of those who had faced a mental health issue, the majority did not speak to anyone at work about the difficulty with half of the respondents raising concerns that their disclosure might negatively affect their career, their status at work and their promotion chances. However, hiding the issue reportedly causes further feelings of isolation and distress amongst 57% of respondents. Overall the companies that have a supportive open culture experience reduced absenteeism, reduced turnover and increased motivation from workers.
Thriving at Work, a 2017 review of mental health supports provided by employers in the UK  found that only 11% of employers share information on their mental wellbeing initiatives with their stakeholders; 4 in 10 organisations have policies or systems in place to support employees with mental wellbeing; and 8 in 10 employers reported that no employees had ever disclosed a mental health issue. Employers want to be supportive but often do not know how to do it properly.
The report recommended six actions for employers to adopt to tackle the issue and reduce the impact of mental ill health on the workplace.

  1.  Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan that promotes good mental health of all employees and outlines the support available for those who may need it.
  2.  Develop mental health awareness among employees by making information, tools and support accessible.
  3.  Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling, during the recruitment process and at regular intervals throughout employment, offer appropriate workplace adjustments to employees who require them.
  4.  Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development.
  5.  Promote effective people management to ensure all employees have a regular conversation about their health and well-being with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader. Ensure to train and support line managers and supervisors in effective management practices.
  6.  Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding available data, talking to employees, and understanding risk factors.

For further information on how to implement these changes and to see the report in full, please click here.

Alternatively, if you need further information or advice in relation to accommodating an employee’s disability and how to manage it, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team on (01) 415 12 85 or e-mail [email protected].