Which policies should workplaces have in operation?
According to UK Employment law, every workplace in the UK has to have certain policies in place. But only three are compulsory, and they relate to health and safety, equality and diversity, and discipline and grievance. And as these are significant issues in the workplace, it makes sense to have a clear statement of how your company expects all its staff to act in certain circumstances.
And that’s what a policy is: a clear statement of practice and procedure to inform everyone and avoid problems. For employers, a well-written policy can also protect against risk.
But apart from those mentioned above, many companies write policies to take account of other aspects of working life. This is where a company’s unique core values are often expressed.
A mental health policy could be part of your company’s equality and diversity policy. Because a mental health problem can also be a disability, which is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010). So anyone suffering discrimination because of this is protected under the law. You can read more about this on our blog here.
But to take proper account of the complexities around mental health and the urgent need for it to be given equal status in the workplace with physical health, many companies create a separate policy.
Why do I need a mental health policy in my workplace?
Even if an employee isn’t personally affected by mental ill health, they may live with or know someone who is, which can have a negative effect on their state of mind. And that can affect their productivity.
In a recent poll of 1,598 adults, the Mirror found that one in five has struggled with social anxiety on returning to their workplace. And general uncertainty and fears about losing their job were highlighted as triggers for a decline in mental wellbeing for one in four. Other studies bear out these data, and the size of the problem shows that this will be an issue at work for a long time to come.
So, isn’t it better to clarify your company’s commitment to supporting employees experiencing mental ill health? And as prevention is always better than cure, wouldn’t it be great if your workplace promotes good mental health in the first place?
So, where do I begin?
You always need to establish the business case for any change you might want to introduce. A few statistics might help. According to the mental health charity, Mind, around 300,000 people lose their jobs each year because of a mental health issue. And if you think that’s a big number, try £74-99 billion! Because that’s what it costs the UK economy a year.
But you need to go beyond the business case. After all, a company is made up of people, and the financial wellbeing of the company is directly dependent on the wellbeing of those people.
So what should go into a workplace mental health policy, and what should it look like?
First, you need to explain:
- how and why physical and mental wellbeing can affect staff;
- the benefits of positive wellbeing in your workplace;
- how your company can create a culture that encourages health and wellbeing, preventing problems before they arise; and
- how your company can support employees who are experiencing mental ill health difficulties and help them recover and return to full productivity.
Then, you should explain the overarching aims of this policy. These will be different depending on the type and the context of your business, so you should gather relevant data about your company. And bear in mind that the aims of the policy may change over time as your company changes, so you should review them to ensure they are still relevant.
Your policy should also contain SMART objectives. These objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific. And to make them really smart, each one should be linked to an action giving a clear example of what this objective looks like in practice.
What else needs to go into the policy?
You also need to explain how you will ensure that everyone at work knows about this new policy. For example, it might be part of an induction pack for new hires. But existing employees also need to know about it and especially who is responsible for its implementation. Maybe you could organise some kind of social event to launch this important new policy!
Is that it?
Not quite. It won’t be much use unless you regularly review and update your workplace mental health policy. New insights and information should be incorporated into your important new policy so that it continues to meet the aims and objectives you have laid out for it.
This post was written by SupportRoom on their website here. They are an exhibitor on the HRTech247 Health & Wellbeing floor of the Technology hall. You can visit their HRTech247 exhibition stand here.