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Mental Health Leave

Mental Health Leave

Mental health problems are the fourth most common cause of employee sickness absence. With one in six employees suffering from psychological illness, it’s critical for employers to understand the requirements around mental health leave. 

Prepare to find out all about employee’s rights and employer’s responsibilities.  

Is Mental Health Leave Different to Physical Sickness Absence? 

In the UK, there’s no legal difference between a sick day taken for physical or mental ill health.  

Causes of mental health leave range from stress, anxiety and depression to more serious ailments like schizophrenia and manic depression. As with physical conditions, individuals can suffer from short bouts of mental illness or longer-term cases.  

In both instances, ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) state that employers have a duty of care to staff to “take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.” What’s more, many forms of mental illness are considered to be a disability giving employees entitlements under the Equality Act 2010.  

What Should Your Sick Leave Policy Cover?  

All HR policies should ensure they treat employees consistently and fairly and that includes your sickness absence policy. Whatever support you provide, be it statutory minimums or enhanced leave or sick pay, this should apply equally to individuals suffering from both mental and physical illness. 

As with any physical disability, you are also required to make reasonable adjustments for any mentally disabled employee. Your policies should spell this out by discussing how you will manage support like: 

  • Time off to attend medical appointments including those with a psychologist or counsellor 
  • Mentoring or peer support at work 
  • A phased return to work after a period of absence 
  • Adjusting an employee’s hours  
  • Allowing an employee to work from home 
  • Relieving an employee of certain tasks (after discussion with them) that make their symptoms worse or create additional stress or pressure 

Some organisations include additional leave (paid or unpaid) for individuals experiencing a traumatic life event, such as the death of a close relative. This kind of policy can provide staff with a buffer giving them the opportunity to recover some equilibrium. And it may even prevent them from suffering additional mental health problems in the long run. 

What Can I Do to Prevent Mental Ill Health Amongst Staff? 

Due to the huge number of events and circumstances that impact individuals’ lives, it’s not possible to prevent mental health problems entirely. However, you can create an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to raise any mental health concerns. 

Mental health organisation, Mind, state that one in five employees would not feel comfortable telling their boss if they felt overly stressed at work. And, in an interview with the BBC, Sam Gurney, head of equality and strategy at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) says: 

“When you look at the reality of the situation, mental health isn’t being addressed properly … People can be terrified of saying they have some kind of issue.”  

Data gathered by the TUC shows that the problem goes beyond people taking time off. Just one in four people who have suffered from a mental illness or phobia for one year are in work. 

So, what can you do? One option is to be proactive in training your managers to spot the signs of mental ill health. It’s also important to make it clear that your business considers and treats mental wellbeing in the same way that you deal with physical illness.  

Despite the right to time off work for mental complaints, not everyone is aware of their right to do so. Research from Powwownow found that 43% of respondents were not aware that they could take sick leave for mental health reasons. 

Another option is to work with an experienced HR consultancy and occupational health service provider. This will give you trained professionals to refer employees on to. Another good option is to provide counselling sessions via an employee assistance programme (EAP) or directly with a professional counsellor. 

EAPs are excellent tools for helping prevent stress and manage it. They provide a range of information and advice services, usually covering health, legal and financial matters, which are some of the major causes of stress. By nipping these kinds of issues in the bud, anxiety and depression can sometimes be avoided. 

Organisations perform better when their people are healthy, motivated and focused. Which is why employee mental wellbeing is increasingly on the radar of many organisations.  

Standing by people when they experience poor mental health sends a clear message about your organisation’s values. And it can also help you keep hold of esteemed staff members and ensure the loyalty of others in your workforce.  

To ensure you’ve got the right policies, tools and training to support your employees’ mental wellbeing, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk. 


The Telltale Signs of Poor Employee Mental Health

The Telltale Signs of Poor Employee Mental Health

Employee mental health is important but with the British stiff upper lips it can mean that mental health is a topic rarely discussed. With 12.5 million working days lost to stress, anxiety or depression in 2016/2017, spotting the telltale signs of poor employee mental health is business critical.  

We look at five red flags that show all’s not well with your workforce and we review how you can take the initiative in opening up mental health discussion in your organisation.  

Red Flag #1 – Silly Mistakes 

We all make silly mistakes from time to time. But when you notice someone making more errors than usual, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.  

Maybe your employee is turning over a problem in their mind making it difficult to concentrate. Or perhaps raised anxiety levels and adrenaline mean they’re easily distracted. Both behaviours can be a sign of an underlying problem.  

Red Flag #2 – Short Tempers or Skittishness 

When the usually calm and kind Jane snaps, shouts or loses her temper, it’s time for a chat.  

You might also find that people who are suffering with mental health problems speed up and talk more or faster or jump between topics. All these behaviours are a result of a cortisol spike or a long-term increase in adrenaline.  

While some people are naturally more likely to flare up or topic-hop than others, you need to be aware of times when this is out of the ordinary for a particular individual. Then be prepared to step in. 

Red Flag #3 – Flat-lining  

Keep your eye out for any staff who are unusually quiet or who fail to see the funny side of things. If something goes wrong and an individual gets a bit teary, becomes subdued or leaves the room, you might find that they’re feeling overwhelmed. 

Other signs of mental ill health can include people avoiding social situations like team lunches or drinks after work.  

Forcing people to join in or expecting someone to resolve this situation alone is a definite no-no. Instead, take them to one side and check in to make sure they’re ok.  

Red Flag #4 – Alcohol on the Breath 

Everyone has the odd mid-week evening when they really need a drink. But if one of your team is regularly coming into work with alcohol on their breath, you need to address the situation.  

This isn’t just for the wellbeing of the individual concerned but for the safety of those around them, particularly in roles where staff drive or operate machinery. Immediate action is called for in this case to prevent an accident. 

Red Flag #5 – Appearance 

Appearance might only be skin deep but it can tell us a lot about an individual’s state of mind. When we’re under pressure, or feeling exhausted due to depression, self-care can be one of the first things to go.  

Someone who’s looking a bit disheveled, seems to showering less or is failing to take care of their appearance might be struggling to maintain their mental health.   

Another telltale sign can be an individual’s weight. People with anxiety often feel like they don’t want to eat due to the high levels of adrenaline in their system. Others find that depression and anxiety make them turn to food for comfort.  

Either way, weight can be a good indicator that someone is struggling. Of course, referencing someone’s appearance is not a good jumping off point for a supportive conversation. So, what should you do to help your staff? 

Take the Employee Mental Health Well-Being Initiative 

Talking about mental health is the first step to addressing it. As a leader, it can be encouraging to talk about the support you find helpful and the tactics you use to keep on top of stress and anxiety. 

One way to to help is to ask your team for a list of early signs of mental distress and the tactics that aid them. They can share these with you so you know what to look out for and the best way to intervene.  

Beyond this, developing a wellness plan for your business will formalise your response as an organisation and also helps employees know that you care about their well-being.  

Keeping an eye on your employee mental health is good for your staff and your business. By following the advice in this article, you’ll be ready to spot issues and respond appropriately when your employees need you most.  

To develop your employee well-being plan, contact Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk.