On Tuesday morning I attended a roundtable discussion kindly hosted by Trapeze HR at the offices of Goodman Derrick LLP exploring the increased visibility and openness around mental health in the workplace. Hosted just in time for World Mental Health Day, it was an eye-opening discussion that delved into changing attitudes towards mental health and the steps employers can take to make sure their working culture is as supportive as possible for staff members at all ages and stages of their lives and careers.
The leading mental health charity Mind approximates that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and the Time for Change Pledge estimates that a cost of between £33 billion and £42 billion is incurred by employers each year as a result of mental health issues.
It’s not just about preventing sick days, mental health provision in the workplace is all about helping employees to be as effective as possible and prosper in both their professional and personal lives, because each will inevitably affect the other. It’s all part and parcel of having a workplace culture that will attract and retain talent.
We discussed the legal implications and how the law has very little to say about a company's duty to provide mental health care provisions, unless the problems experienced are deemed to fall under disability discrimination at which point the employer must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate.
Given this, it's fantastic to see more and more companies going above and beyond to provide for their employees’ mental wellbeing by recognising pressure points early, introducing wellbeing programmes and training up mental health first aiders across the business to be the first point of contact for those experiencing difficulties.
What’s noticeable is how closely aligned the language being used is with physical health. It shows how far we’ve come in breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and viewing it as something we all need to pay attention to.
One of the key take-home messages of the discussion was that employers need to take it upon themselves to talk openly about mental health in the workplace and ask the right questions to find out what their people need. After all, there’s no one size fits all solution.