World Mental Health Day 2017 – Mental health in the workplace

What is mental health?

ACAS define mental health as: “The mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with normal stresses of everyday life.”

When an individual feels good about themselves they often work more productively, communicate better with colleagues and make a valuable contribution within the workplace.

It is important to note that mental health can vary from feeling ‘a bit down’ to common illnesses such as anxiety and depression to more severe cases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

It has been reported that mental health problems cost the average UK employer roughly £30bn annually. This is due to lack of production, recruitment issues and absence.

“Although understanding of mental health issues is growing, misconceptions still remain – especially in the workplace. Once thought of as something that happened to an unfortunate few, one in four people are now affected by mental health issues, and employers need to be able to spot the signs. If not, problems may only come to light later on when more serious interventions are necessary.” Joy Reymond, Head of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Unum.

Therefore, it is encouraged that employers promote good mental health and provide support for employees who are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

This blog focuses on the practical, but less obvious steps that employers should take in order to make a more positive difference to the lives of their employees who may be suffering from mental health issues in the workplace

Recognise that all employees have mental health

It is important that employers identify that all employees have mental health, in the same way an individual has their physical health. Both can deteriorate from good to bad depending on circumstances that may be going on in and out of the working environment.

Keep in contact with employees who are off with a mental health issue

It is crucial that employers find the right balance when keeping in touch with an employee who is off sick. Further, employers should be aware that the longer an employee is off with a mental health issue, the less likely they are to return to work. This is because they will begin to loose confidence and feel kept in the dark from the business.

In addition, employers should help their employees with access to medical services. By helping the employee take medical action as early as possible will see the employee return to work sooner than later.


Employers should develop a mental health policy, by doing this employee’s will be reassured that the business cares for their wellbeing. In addition, such policies will create an overall awareness in the workplace and encourage individuals to talk about mental health.


Employers should use staff newsletters, posters and other internal communications to promote mental health awareness. As well as this, introducing discussions into staff meetings can be used as an opportunity to check in with how employees are feeling.

Ensure all managers are properly trained

By training up managers, employees will be reassured that their management team is educated in mental health matters, meaning they will feel more inclined to come forward and discuss any problems they may be having in and out of the working environment.

Zero tolerance to bullying policies

All employers should ensure there is a zero-tolerance approach taken to bullying in the workplace. It should be communicated in these policies that those found guilty of such conduct will be subject to disciplinary action.

Employment Law Support for Employers

Most of the time absence is genuine. At Employment Law Services (ELS) our employment law team help our clients form effective people management policies, give advice on the cause of absence and provide them with guidance on how to monitor long-term illness, return to work, sick pay and fit notes.

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.

Please note, this article has not to be taken as legal advice. The author strongly advises the reader to take the correct legal advice before embarking on any enforcement action.