According to the Health & Safety Executive, almost a million workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22. Here, we highlight how best to help employees who are in this situation.
Mental health in the workplace
It's important for employers to treat mental health seriously and with the same care as a physical illness. You should help employees stay in work while recovering from or managing a mental health condition by making reasonable adjustments to the workplace.
Often, simple changes to an employee's working arrangements, workload or responsibilities can be enough. Remember that everyone's experience of mental illness is different. Employees are often experts on their own condition and know what support they need.
However, finding the right adjustments should be a collaborative process – think about what kind of adjustments work in your workplace, while also allowing employees to choose changes that work for them.
Reasonable adjustments are changes that an employer makes to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to someone's disability.
Employers must make reasonable adjustments if an employee's mental health condition is a disability under the Equality Act.
However, it's good practice to try and make adjustments for anyone who has a mental health condition or experiences stress at work.
Finding the right adjustment
This can be difficult, especially because many people find it hard to talk openly about their mental health and might be unsure of what they need to manage it.
So, don't put all the pressure on the employee to find something that works for them.
Take time to prepare yourself for a conversation with the employee and be ready to offer up examples of reasonable adjustments that might work in the employee's situation.
What might be possible given the employee's job
How these adjustments might enable the employee to do the job at a satisfactory level
How the adjustments might impact others
Examples of reasonable adjustments
Reasonable adjustments can cover:
Changes to an employee's roles and responsibilities: e.g. breaking down work into short-term tasks or reducing customer-facing work
Reviewing an employee's working relationships and communication styles: e.g. making sure they're working with trusted people
Changes to the physical working environment: e.g. moving an employee to a quieter area of the office or minimising noise
Changes to working hours or patterns: e.g. taking a flexible approach to start/finish times additional support e.g. providing a buddy or mentor
See the Acas guidance on reasonable adjustments for mental health for more examples.
Meeting with an employee
Once you're prepared, have an open, honest and practical conversation with the employee about how their mental health condition impacts their work and what adjustments you think will be helpful.
Ask them what reasonable adjustments they'd like to explore and why they think these will work for them.
Discuss how the reasonable adjustments will work in practice and any concerns they may have.
Explain what is and isn't possible and that you're willing to support any adjustments that are reasonable.
Once you've both agreed which reasonable adjustments to try, you should confirm them in writing.
Reviewing and monitoring
Mental health can fluctuate over time so it's important to monitor and review reasonable adjustments on an ongoing basis.
Consider arranging follow-up meetings to discuss if the adjustments are working and agree what to do next if they aren't.