Employer health obligations: mental, not just physical

A large amount of employers are shying away from their responsibilities on mental health, warns Busy Bees Benefits (BBB).

As work environments become more pressurised and employees work longer hours, stress related illnesses are becoming more prominent. The spotlight is being shone on employers as mental health is slipping through the net when it comes to legal health obligations.

Employers should ask themselves what plans they have in place when an issue occurs, says BBB.

If HR managers don’t have the time or skills best equipped to solve a mental health issue, one option is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that provides around the clock telephone counselling and an online help system.

“We’re all well aware of employers’ responsibilities to maintain their employees’ physical health – and we’ve seen the horror stories when they don’t,” says BBB Operations Director Louise Wesley.

“But often, mental health is side-lined and employees don’t know how to seek help when their work life becomes too stressful.”

Every employee is different and mental health issues are varied. “EAPs are great and will suit a large majority of staff, but there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all scheme. An EAP should work as part of a greater strategy,” she adds.

“The best way to combat mental health issues is to introduce an open door policy, create a fair working environment and communicate any schemes you have in place to ensure maximum take up.”

BBB’s EAP offers a solution to help employees deal with everyday problems inside and outside of the workplace.

“Recent research shows that only 5% of employees believe their employer is helpful when dealing with mental health issues,” adds Ms Wesley.

“Clearly, this is not good enough and work still needs to be done in this area. Whether it’s introducing a new scheme or communicating those that you already have in place, employers should focus on mental health improvements.

“All aspects of health affect an employees’ productivity in the workplace. The last thing an employer needs is extended levels of sickness and absence leave,” she concludes.