Mental Ill-Health at Work
Issues of mental ill-health at work can manifest themselves in numerous ways, including long-term sickness (e.g. through depression, anxiety or long-term incapacity), workplace personality clashes, grievances, potential disciplinary scenarios and underperformance.
Mental ill-health costs Britain around 4.5% of its GDP (including benefits, NHS costs and low productivity). 20% of staff will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives, according to a 2015 report from the OECD. Psychological impairment is responsible for between one third and one half of all long-term sickness and disability among the working age population in OECD countries, with 70% of those who suffer mild to moderate mental conditions reporting that they struggle and are less productive at work.
DC Commercial Solicitors’ Team Strategy
We recognise the issues concerning mental ill-health in the workplace. There can be a serious cost – to both employers and employees – in terms of absenteeism, sick pay, temporary replacement staff, lost revenue and disruption.
We are leading the way in providing solutions which meet the complex needs of both employers and employees by developing strategies and resources to enable businesses to take preventative steps and to minimise the impact of mental ill-health on their business.
Where there is already a mental ill-health issue, our unique management tool enables the swift and effective rehabilitation of staff to their previous levels of productivity.
We have a team of professionals who can act to limit the development of mental ill-health and its cost to the business. The team includes the firm’s solicitors, experienced in advising on managing workplace mental ill-health issues, together with HR experts, workplace psychotherapists, consultant occupational health workers and consultant psychiatric support.
The team provides a bespoke approach, involving the appropriate blend of legal advice, occupational health assessment and support, individual or joint workplace mediation sessions, psychological treatment and consultant psychiatric advice as necessary. This typically involves providing early support and access to professional help, with the aim of a timely return to work, by providing the appropriate tools to help staff feel comfortable in the workplace; to reach the required level of performance for their role; and cope in situations of conflict, dispute and difficult workplace relationships.
The process produces a Return to Work plan, taking full account of the impact of disability discrimination legislation and workplace capability, disciplinary and grievance procedures. Where it is not possible to rehabilitate employees to their role, the process explores role changes, or even assisting an employee to find work elsewhere, if that is a more appropriate solution. The key to our approach is taking early action to minimise disruption and assist recovery, while ensuring that all appropriate options are explored.
Working With Employers
The aim of the team’s work is to enable employers and employees to have an alternative to the seemingly intractable problem of long-term sickness, which can result in expensive, disruptive and often distressing dismissal scenarios with an unavoidable detrimental effect on all concerned.
Mental ill-health absence levels can be reduced by cost-effective training, to enhance organisational, management, team and individual resilience. This involves the use of evidenced-based NeuroScience to strengthen ‘Executive Functions’ (EF) of the brain that are essential for high performance. We would expect to see improvements in the following areas:
- Cognitive Control
- Ability to maintain attention and focus
- Regulation of emotions
- Improved functioning of working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, planning and problem solving
Optimising these functions, whilst gaining practical skills in managing organisational and interpersonal challenges, undoubtedly increases performance and actively reduces the risk of mental breakdown. Our team uses their expertise to help companies realise their full potential.
Skills developed to restore leaders and employees to full functionality also enhance resilience and performance before further difficulties develop. Through executive coaching, leadership and employee training we can provide a real evidence-based strategy with a commitment to increased retention, performance and employee motivation. Our aim is to demonstrate year-on-year real advancement. We work collaboratively, rapidly building-in these skills to become an intrinsic part of your company culture.
Mental Ill-Health at Work Policy
We recognise that dealing with sensitive issues concerning mental ill-health in the workplace is difficult for both employers and employees. As ACAS highlight, the issues often seem “too personal, too deep and too complex”. We have carefully developed a policy which provides employers with a clear starting point in dealing proactively with psychological wellbeing in their workforce.
- Provides a clear statement that the employer is committed to ensuring that any of its staff who experience mental ill-health difficulties do not suffer intolerance or discrimination at work;
- Provides the workforce with information about such issues and in doing so de-stigmatises them. Historically, those with mental ill-health difficulties have suffered as a result of the negative social stigma and have at times been labeled unreliable, dangerous or unpredictable. It is also often thought that mental illness is long-term and untreatable. Our policy aims to dispel these myths and educate the workforce about the reality of mental ill-health difficulties, their prevalence and the wide range of symptoms suffered;
- Provides employers with the tools to assist staff who suffer with mental ill-health disorders, to enable them to remain in the workplace. It has long been recognised by the Government that many highly-trained, gifted and experienced individuals who develop psychological difficulties are unnecessarily forced to give up their jobs – a huge waste of talent for British business;
- Provides staff with a greater awareness of, and confidence in, the support available to them if they are suffering with a mental ill-health difficulty, and encouraging communication with their employer.
Our policy can be tailored to suit particular business needs and we work alongside employers to ensure that staff receive appropriate training, to enable effective implementation of the policy.
Government’s Fit For Work Scheme
The Government is attempting to address the issue of tackling long-term absenteeism through its “Fit For Work” scheme. It intends that the scheme be in place by May 2015 and it has produced guidance to assist employers. This provides an occupational health referral route after the employee has been absent for four weeks (although a GP will be able to make an earlier referral if it is considered the employee is likely to be absent for four weeks or more). The referral will result in recommendations contained in a ‘Return to Work’ plan, with the intention of making accessible to all businesses the more sophisticated options currently generally exclusive to larger companies.
However, what the scheme does not provide is prevention strategies and early intervention, which can themselves avoid long-term sickness absences. Our strategy and resources provide these essential prevention and early intervention strategies and may, when effectively implemented, avoid the need to resort to the Government’s Fit For Work scheme.
It is for this reason that the Government has made it clear that the Fit For Work scheme is intended to complement, rather than replace, existing occupational health and other services available to employers.
Our experience over many years has taught us that greater awareness of psychological wellbeing in the workplace, appropriate training for management, the implementation of preventative measures and appropriate early intervention by employers are key to tackling the cost and disruption that can result from mental ill-health. Not only do these strategies directly benefit the employer through cost and efficiency savings, they also directly benefit staff who might suffer such disability and produce a more productive, motivated and loyal workforce.
Members of our Mental Ill-Health at Work Team
Laurence Dunn – Partner
Daryl Cowan – Partner
Darren Tibble – Partner
Kirsty Alleyne – Senior Solicitor
Amy Shaw – Solicitor and
Janet Bell – Human Resources Consultant (and workplace mediation).
Of Further Interest
Simon Synek – Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe Too