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Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental ill health affects approximately one in four people in the UK. Yet, many employees still feel unable to approach their manager to discuss their mental health - and many managers feel ill-equipped to offer advice and assistance. 

We look at the relevant legislation, common risk factors and what you can do to mitigate them and ensure you are acting lawfully.

What is mental health?

Mental illness is, simply, just that - an illness. Like any other illness, it could be a direct result of an employee’s working environment, or have occurred independently but potentially affect their health, safety, and wellbeing at work. Stress, anxiety and depression are all examples of mental ill health. 

What are the most common risk factors?

Common stressors or triggers (i.e. situations or events that cause stress and can bring on or worsen symptoms) for employees include:

Demands at work.
Struggling to cope with the demands of their job, particularly during busy periods.

Lack of control.
Feeling that they have no say in how they work on a day-to-day basis or a lack of communication and engagement during organisational change.

Lack of support.
Not being given sufficient information, training or support from managers and colleagues, or being subjected to unacceptable behaviour such as harassment or bullying.

What can I do to minimise risks to mental health in the workplace?

Both physical and mental ill health may impact a person’s performance and wellbeing at work. Risks to mental health, like any other health risks that affect employees, can be managed and minimised with risk assessments, safe working procedures and reasonable adjustments in place. 

One of the most important steps business owners and senior management can take to support mental ill health in the workplace is to lead by example, proactively considering their employees’ mental health and creating an environment which encourages open discussion and acceptance.

Understand mental health
Educate yourself and your senior staff on the most common conditions, current legislation and relevant industry guidance. Ensure you can identify likely stressors in your workplace and early signs of mental health concerns so that you can provide support.

Make mental health a priority in your workplace with a course tailored to equip line managers with tools to lead crucial conversations. 

Our Line Managers Master Class for Mental Health course will give your line managers the tools and confidence to conduct those crucial conversations around Mental Health, strengthening your business's well-being provision. 

Appoint a Mental Health First Aider
A trained mental health first aider will be able to spot the signs and symptoms of any potential concerns and provide relevant advice and support. Employees may also feel more comfortable discussing any issues with a first aider than with their manager. 

Understand how mental ill health might affect your business.
Issues associated with mental ill health can have a significant impact on your business, including:

  • High staff turnover

  • Absenteeism

  • Presenteeism (coming into work when unwell)

  • Conflict

  • Poor employee engagement 

  • Low productivity

  • A higher number of errors and accidents

Update your policies and procedures.

  • Consider whether your business needs a stress management strategy in place; it can be useful to have a list of identified mental health triggers and any reasonable adjustments that could be put in place. 
  • An ethics or grievance procedure helpline may ensure that unacceptable behaviour is reported and investigated at the earliest opportunity. 
  • Ensure a process is in place for those returning to work to provide the support they need.

Create and maintain a positive working environment.

  • Ensure decision-making is fair, inclusive and transparent. 
  • Promote staff wellbeing through training, seminars and workshops; consider an employee care management programme and encourage disclosure and openness.
  • Lead by example; walk around your office at lunchtime to see how many of your staff are still at their desks and encourage them to take a proper break. Similarly, when you leave work, tell your staff it is time they went home (if you are always the last out, perhaps you should look at your own working hours!).

When does a mental health issue count as a disability?

The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as having a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term (i.e. lasting 12 months or more) adverse effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. There are additional rules for recurring health issues, such as depression.

How can I ensure I treat people equally according to the law?

Review your recruitment process.
Make sure that you are complying with legislation throughout the whole process, including pre-employment questionnaires and interviews; remember, you are not permitted to use questionnaires to ask about health issues before offering someone a job except in very specific circumstances. The law covers employees through recruitment, employment and if they are dismissed for any reason, including redundancy. 

Examine your actions.
As an employer, it is against the law to treat one employee less favourably than another because they have a disability, you believe they have a disability or because of an association with a disability - for example, if they are the prime carer of a disabled person. 

Make reasonable adjustments.
You are required by law to make reasonable adjustments to work practices, and provide aids/adjustments, for disabled employees. What is considered as “reasonable” is subjective and entirely dependent on the specific circumstances of the employer and the employee.

How can Stallard Kane help?
Creating a positive work environment that supports employee well-being is crucial for the success of any business. Our Mental Health First Aid training course teaches individuals how to identify, understand, and assist someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. This course can help to minimize the impact of mental ill-health in your workplace. 

Our Human Resources and Health and Safety Teams can also provide support in identifying practices and processes that can support the promotion of Mental Health awareness and understanding and meeting your legal obligations.  

If you would like to learn more about this training or discuss your training needs, please reach out to our Training Team by calling 01427 420 405 or emailing


The information and any commentary contained within these updates are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or any other type of professional advice. Stallard Kane does not accept and, to the extent permitted by law, exclude liability to any person for any loss which may arise from relying upon or otherwise using the information contained in these blogs. If you have a particular query or issue, you are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice about your issue and not to rely solely on the information or comments in these updates.
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