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Employers Failing to Address Workers’ Mental Health

Julia Fitzsimmons 1More employees are approaching their managers with concerns around mental health, but most companies fail to offer appropriate training, it was revealed today.

An Institute of Directors poll of 700 managers found four in 10 had been approached by staff but only 17% of firms offered mental health training for managers.

The findings have been released to coincide with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which FBC Manby Bowdler’s Julia Fitzsimmons says is an ideal opportunity for employers to check whether their policy and culture matches up to best practice.

Julia Fitzsimmons, Partner in the Employment Team, says although the taboo of talking about mental health has started to shift, many employers are keeping quiet and avoiding conversations with staff, although they have a legal duty to ensure the mental wellbeing of their staff. If that wasn’t enough, having a happier workforce has been shown to improve the bottom line of a business.

“Research among workers by MIND, the mental health charity, found that a continuing culture of fear and silence around the topic was adding up to a big cost to employers, with more than 20 per cent reporting they had called in sick to avoid workplace stress, and 30 per cent saying they did not feel they would be able to speak openly with their line manager about the issue. We would urge employers to listen to what charities like MIND are saying, and develop strategies focused on mental health as part of employee wellbeing.

“We can support employers who have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work. Companies should be undertaking a risk assessment and acting on it. And where an employee is suffering from a mental health condition which has a long-term effect on day-to-day activity, this may be classed as a disability, requiring the employer to take positive action under the Equality Act 2010.

“The Equality Act makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably because of their disability, without a justifiable reason.

“Best practice is for employers to have clearly stated policies that are reflected in the company’s culture, so that a manager who notices a change in personality, evidence of low mood or periods of increased absence, will feel equipped to enquire if any workplace support is needed. It needs to happen in a supportive environment where the employee feels comfortable in opening up and asking for help, if needed.”

The employment team at FBC Manby Bowdler supports businesses through their dedicated service, Progressive HR. The team, with a combined 40 years of experience help businesses to achieve their goals and ambitions, by maximising their biggest asset, their people.

Julia works with a range of agricultural, manufacturing and SME clients. She has acted for national and international businesses and Government departments and specialises in managing employee issues around business restructures. For further advice on employment law or HR issues, please contact her on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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