Shining a Light on Mental Health in the Workplace

Updated: May 10, 2021

Mental Health Awareness week is shining a spotlight on the Nations Mental Health.

2020 and now 2021, more than any others in recent memory, have been challenging, full of change. Many have experienced personal loss, isolation due to lockdown or the opposite for families that have found themselves all living, working and learning together at home. Many have experienced redundancy or changes to how and where they work as well as disruptions to their finances.

According to the HSE stress, depression or anxiety account for 55% of all days lost due to work-related ill health and is estimated to cost the UK economy up to £5billion a year (pre-pandemic).

Changes in the workplace since the pandemic have for many increased feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety. The effects on the individual can be significant and if you are an Employer, you have a legal responsibility and duty of care to your employees to ensure you are adequately managing stress risks in the workplace. Regardless of your legal obligations, your workforce are the backbone of your business and mental health struggles among your employees will result in them being less productive and in some cases unable to perform at all.

The HSE have published a stress risk assessment for SME’s to assist employers with assessing and managing stress in the workplace. Read more here.

The HSE have also published the Tackling Stress Workbook to help employers further assess the risks to their employees from work related stress and gives advice and practical guidance on how to manage work related stress.

It promotes the Management Standards approach to tackling work-related stress – a systematic approach to implementing an organisational procedure for managing work-related stress. It uses a clear step-by-step method which includes checklists to help you make sure you have completed a stage before you move to the next step.

Find out more.

If you are an employer with more than five employees having a written policy, and regularly reviewed risk assessments, help provide a framework for identifying, managing, and hopefully reducing stress and its effects in the workplace.

For access to further resources see here.

In terms of insurance, Employers are obliged to purchase compulsory Employers Liability insurance, to comply with the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, which provides cover for Employer’s for liability injury or illness of their employees attributed to their employment.

Most employer’s liability policies include “mental injury”[i] within the definition of injury or illness and this usually extends to include stress provided that it can be proven that the employer acted negligently and therefore breached their duty of care to the employee as specified by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. For this criteria to be met, there must be a degree of foreseeability that the negligence may have resulted in mental injury and the stress must have caused a recognised mental injury[ii].

In some cases, for example where mental health or stress diagnosis has derived from cases of harassment, bullying or unfair or constructive dismissal an Employment Practices Liability policy would be required to provide cover for defence costs or ensuing awards, for example in cases which included breaches of the Employment Act 2002, the Race Relations Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equality Act. Employment Practices Liability Insurance is usually purchased as an extension to a D&O or Management Liability policy.

If you have any questions about Employer's Liability Insurance or Employment Practices Liability Insurance contact us

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[i] Always check you own policy wording and with your broker or insurer to be certain of your cover [ii] CII, Is Stress the Elephant in the Boardroom?, [Retrieved May 5, 2021]

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