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Your manager can see you now – mental health challenges in the ‘new world’ of work.

The 10th October is World Mental Health Day.  In this whole new chaotic and ever changing world, where even the most resilient amongst us are having to adapt and deal with ever changing rules and challenges, we consider the toll lockdown, isolation and loneliness are having on employees metal health and the support that can be provided.

The Office for National Statistics found that the rate of depression in adults doubled during June 2020 compared to at the start of lockdown, with financial worries ranking highly on the factors influencing symptoms.   With significant numbers of employees being furloughed and newspaper headlines warning of a deep recession and wide scale redundancies, there is currently much uncertainty for employees to process.  Quoted in the October 2020 Issue of People Management magazine, Dr Helena Boschi, an expert in applied neuroscience and author of  ‘Why we do what we do: understanding our brain to get the best out of ourselves and others’ stated “Our brains are naturally designed to hate anything uncertain – it’s a guessing machine that makes a rapid assessment of what’s dangerous and is predisposed to negative bias.”  On the basis of the above research, we can conclude that the current uncertainty around the world of work, the ever changing rules and confusion over acceptable home and work life practices must create a risk for the metal health of our teams.

What level of legal protection is there for mental health conditions in the UK?

In the UK the law extends protection to mental health conditions under the Equality Act 2010 where there exists a substantial adverse effect on the individual’s ability to carry out their normal day to day activities.

In 2010, the Employment Appeal Tribunal distinguished between mental impairments that were serious enough to attract legal protection, such as clinical depression, from diagnoses such as low mood, which were described as a reaction to adverse life effects and not protected. A decade on from that distinction being drawn, the line of legal protection remains the same.

Mental health conditions and support

Although for many their conditions may not necessarily attract legal protection, this no reason for employers to ignore the impact of metal health issues or for employees to suffer in silence.  Perhaps one glimmer of hope to come out of the pandemic, is the increased dialogue and publicity surrounding mental health issues meaning employees may possibly be more willing to come forward for support if they are experiencing difficulties before matters escalate.

There are many organisations offering resources to support with metal health issues and the charity MIND is one example of an organisation raising awareness on varying types on mental health condition.  They also have a page for emergency support  . SAMH in Scotland also provide useful guidance, which is worth reading for anyone looking to improve their own knowledge.

What are the next steps for employers?

Mental Health Awareness day is a good opportunity to reflect on the support being offered to your employees in this area.  Leaders should ask themselves: Are managers trained in how to identify and support with mental issues? Do Managers appreciate the importance of regular communication and discussion with employees (both present at work and working remotely)?  Who can employees talk to if they have concerns, for example could mental health first aiders be introduced?

How can we help?

LexLeyton is proud to partner with some wonderful businesses and associations to share knowledge and educate our clients on the expanding parameters of mental health.  Whether it be mental health policies, training, mindfulness sessions or wellbeing strategies, we recognise the dynamics in every workplace and the importance of support that is right for your unique context. If a free consultation could help support the further development of your employee wellbeing strategy or a discussion around what we can do to help, please reach out to us at legal@lexleyton.co.uk

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