To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Acas has produced new guidance to help organisations support employees who may be suffering from poor mental health.
Acas earmarks the role of the manager as pivotal when supporting employee wellbeing. Whilst the manager is responsible for monitoring workloads and setting reasonable targets, the guidance (see below) suggests that the role should have certain pastoral qualities. Managers should be approachable and encourage their employees to talk if they are experiencing difficulty.
Another report has found that long-term mental health conditions cause up to 300,000 people to leave their jobs each year. The ‘Thriving at Work’ report seeks to change the culture around mental health to create a more open, understanding and aware society. The Stevenson / Farmer review believes that organisations can have the greatest impact and provide the most support to create this change, with the report setting out a ten year vision. The report contains a number of proposals and “mental health core standards” which can be put in place quickly across all organisations including: producing and implementing a mental health at work plan; developing awareness; and encouraging open conversations.
To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Acas has produced new guidance on helping organisations manage employees who may be suffering from poor mental health. This is particularly timely as the focus of the campaign this year is mental health in the workplace. Here, we take a look at the importance of the manager’s role.
Acas earmarks the role of the manager as pivotal when supporting employee wellbeing. The manager’s responsibilities will naturally include monitoring workload and setting reasonable targets that will encourage hard work but still be within the employee’s grasp. However, the guidance goes on to point out certain pastoral qualities too. Managers should be approachable and encourage their employees to talk to them if they are experiencing difficulty.
Opening up a dialogue
There are certain signs which could alert a manager to the fact that an employee may be struggling with their mental health, for example, changes in usual behaviour or an increase in sickness absence. Employees may be reluctant to start a conversation with their manager about a mental health problem so the guidance suggests managers taking the lead and arranging a meeting as soon as possible to encourage the employee to open up.
The meeting should be held in a private space and managers should allow the employee as much time as they need. Managers should be open-minded, try to find out what the cause of the problem is and be prepared for what the employee may bring to the conversation.
Alternatively, if the employee is not prepared to talk, the manager should let the employee know that they may approach the manager at any time.
If employees take sick leave, managers should agree a plan for contacting the employee whilst absent, and be positive, professional and supportive at all times. Consideration should be given to a phased return to assist a smoother transition back to work.
When then employee does return, a return to work interview should be arranged to welcome them back and to ensure they feel supported and, from a practical point of view, to catch up on anything they have missed during their absence.
Wider impact on team members
The guidance acknowledges that a manager’s remit in these situations will extend beyond the employee themselves. The manager may need to increase their presence around the other team members who may be upset to hear their colleague is experiencing problems with their mental health. Regular catch ups should ensure any issues can be addressed.
Potential disciplinary or capability procedures
Even after adjustments have been made to the employee’s role, formal procedures to deal with performance may be required. Managers should consider further adjustments to the employee’s current role or a move to lighter duties or another role entirely. Where the mental ill health amounts to a disability, the duty to make reasonable adjustments will apply.
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