Last week, PER hosted a breakfast event with CM Murray, leading specialists in employment and partnership law, to discuss how to navigate mental ill health in the workplace. 

CM Murray Partner Beth Hale covered employers’ responsibilities, including what to do if an employee is absent with a mental health-related illness, how to support them back to work and how to manage grievance and disciplinary processes when employees are unwell.

Beth set the scene at the start of her talk by sharing some statistics that highlight the importance of this issue. For instance, according to Mind, more than seven in ten employees have experienced mental health problems in their lives and, according to the Health and Safety Executive, depression and anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health in 2018 / 2019.

As Beth explained, mental ill health should be treated by employers in exactly the same way as physical ill health. However, the invisibility of mental ill health and the stigma that still surrounds it can cause issues when it comes to addressing an employee’s health problems. Some ill health could be caused or triggered by workplace stress, and in these cases an employer’s liability should be considered. Additionally, if an employee’s mental ill health constitutes a disability, the employer must make reasonable adjustments and must avoid discriminatory behaviours. While Beth clearly explains all the legal factors, she also regularly reminds her audience of the importance of dealing with employees as individuals, thinking more broadly about their welfare rather than sticking to strict workplace policies.

You can listen to highlights from Beth’s talk and view her presentation in the video below.