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Employment Law Speed Read – 23/10/17

This week we take an in depth look at the recent "managing staff experiencing mental ill health" guidance released by ACAS.

Managing mental health in the workplace

ACAS has released new guidance which aims to assist employers in managing mental health in the workplace.

This guidance comes as a new study published by the charity Business in the Community, showed that out of a survey of more than 3000 employees, of those that had disclosed their mental health issues to their employers, 15% had gone on to face disciplinary action, demotions and/or dismissals.

Further, only 11% of the people surveyed said that they felt able to disclose a mental illness to their line manager.

The new ACAS guidance places great emphasis on the role of managers in spotting and supporting employees with mental health issues. The guidance suggests that managers should be approachable, have one to one catch ups with staff and tailor their managerial approach to each individual.

The guidance recognises that although employers may be comfortable at dealing with their employees’ physical illnesses, employers often lack the confidence in dealing with mental illnesses. One of the greatest issues an employer faces is recognising when an employee is suffering from a mental illness. The new guidance highlights certain signs that employers should be alert to, including:

  • A change in the individuals usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with others.
  • Changes in their standard of work and their focus on tasks.
  • An increase in their sickness absences and lateness.

If an employer has concerns about a member of staff suffering from mental illness they are encouraged to be proactive and arrange a meeting as soon as possible with the affected employee.

Of course, not all individuals may want to talk about their issues and should not feel pressured to do so. If this is the case, managers should continue to monitor the situation and seek guidance from HR and Occupational Health if their concerns continue.

Mental health conditions can often amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Consequently, employers should put in place reasonable adjustments where possible, to ensure that an individual can continue to perform their job without being put at a disadvantage.

The new guidance states that reasonable adjustments could include managing the individual’s workload and increasing their entitlement to breaks. All adjustments should be discussed with the individual, recorded and be subject to regular reviews.

The guidance also gives useful advice on managing absences relating to mental illness including having an agreed plan for keeping in contact with the affected individual whilst they are on sick leave, agreeing how to communicate their leave to their fellow colleagues and encouraging a phased approach to their return.

Finally, the guidance recognises that even with reasonable adjustments, an employee’s conduct or performance may mean that disciplinary and capability actions may have to be taken. In these circumstances the employer should consider if they have considered all reasonable adjustments (for example changing the individual’s role) and as in all cases they should follow a fair process.

The ACAS guidance can be found by clicking here.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our employment team.