Every year, on October 10th, we observe World Mental Health Day and aim to raise awareness about mental health issues to promote mental well-being within the workplace. In today’s world, our jobs and work environments can significantly impact our mental health, therefore, it’s crucial to understand your rights regarding mental health at your place of work.
At CWC Solicitors, we believe that awareness of these rights is the first step toward fostering a healthier, more supportive work environment.
Mental health in the workplace: The importance
Workplace mental health is not just an individual concern; it’s a societal one. In the United Kingdom, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure a mentally healthy workplace for their employees. This responsibility is rooted in various laws, regulations, and guidelines that benefit both employees and employers. Statistically, a happy workplace increases productivity, reduces absence, and fosters a positive company culture.
Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or occupation. It can be linked to brain chemistry or medication, however, certain factors can make people more vulnerable to mental ill health within the workplace.
At work in particular, high-pressure or stressful job roles can negatively impact mental health. Likewise, working long hours, poor work-life balance or a lack of job security can be problematic in the long term. However, mental health is not confined to the workplace. Health issues, family problems, relationship breakdowns and other personal factors could also come into play.
If you’re experiencing mental health problems, it is important to seek help. Whether you take simple steps in your daily life to alleviate tension, or get professional help from your GP or another medical professional, it’s always wise to confide in your employer in regards to your mental health.
Ensuring you are resting and aiming for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended, as is maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and spending time with loved ones. Ensuring you have a good relationship with work will also prove beneficial, allowing you more time to spend with loved ones and do activities that bring you joy.
At work, you should aim to take regular breaks throughout your day and avoid lengthy hours which could cause additional stress. If this is something you need assistance with, be sure to speak to your line manager for increased support.
Your Rights Regarding Mental Health at Work
There are a number of laws in place in the UK that protect employees suffering from their mental health within the workplace.
The Equality Act of 2010 protects employees against discrimination regarding mental health problems. This means employers can’t discriminate against those with mental ailments during the hiring process or exclude anyone from the opportunity of a promotion. They also have a legal responsibility to ensure that staff have equal access to employment opportunities, and aren’t harassed, victimised or bullied in any way due to their health.
Making reasonable accommodations for individuals with mental health conditions is also considered fundamental. This can include a change in work hours or working from home, providing additional support in the form of counselling or altering occupational responsibilities.
Furthermore, confidentiality is paramount and employers should only disclose information regarding an employee’s mental health status on a need to know basis, whether it’s for accommodation purposes or health and safety.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take steps to protect the health and safety of their employees. This includes protecting employees from stress-related illnesses, which currently affect nearly 80% of adults in the UK. Some ways to avoid this include maintaining reasonable working hours, ensuring employees are safe both mentally and physically at work, and keeping good working relations between colleagues.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 reinforces the previous act and lists specific requirements for employers to assess and manage the risks to health and safety from stress at work. It stipulates that employers have a duty to carry out the relevant risk assessments to identify potential hazards to employee health and safety, and those with a workforce greater than 5 people must record any significant findings.
If the risk assessment highlights that improvement is needed, it is necessary for regular checks to be carried out. The findings are used to detect ill-health due to working conditions such as noise, vibration, solvents or dust – all of which should be dealt with early to prevent severe damage or deterioration caused by such conditions.
On World Mental Health Day, consider taking action to support your own mental well-being at work and advocate for changes to be implemented to protect others.
Mindfulness, physical exercise, nourishing food and maintaining a work-life balance are paramount in a self care routine, so be sure to look after yourself in every way. Familiarise yourself with your rights and protections, and consider an open communication approach with your employer should you face any mental hardship. This will give them the opportunity to make any reasonable adjustments to your workload and find ways to support you.
Raising awareness about mental health within the workplace can kickstart change, whether it’s advocating for free counselling sessions, making resources readily available and more accessible, or having weekly check-ins with your employers or managers, every little helps.
Get in touch
On World Mental Health Day, let’s remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and your rights in the workplace reflect this. A supportive work environment that respects and prioritises mental well-being benefits everyone involved. If you believe your mental health rights are being violated at work, don’t hesitate to contact our experts.