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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

Are employers responsible for their employees' mental health?

Updated: May 25, 2023

Work Related Stress

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) work tirelessly to increase global awareness of mental health issues, which effect people in all nations across the world, including educating us on the prevention of mental and emotional disorders and the proper treatment and care for those suffering.


Although in UK employment law, mental health isn't a specific protected characteristic, disability is. The Equality Act 2010 defines someone as disabled who has a physical or mental injury, where it affects daily activities and lasts in excess of 12 months.

According to recent statistics the most common cause of stress is work-related (Statistica), and:

"Around 30% of employees state that they do not feel comfortable talking to their manager about mental health issues." (ONS)

What does this mean for employers?

Poor mental health is a major problem for employers, where employees struggle with personal, financial and work-related issues.

Employers have a "duty of care", which covers employees' health, safety and wellbeing. As part of their duty of care, an employer must do all they reasonably can to provide a safe working environment, including carrying out risk assessments to protect employees from stress at work.

What can the employer do to support employees?

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provide good practice guidelines. ACAS encourage employers to take mental health issues seriously and be open to talking to employees about what is causing them stress at work and how they can help them.

Employers should consult with their employees on how they can make reasonable adjustments to support those who have a disability. This may include counselling, flexible working and/or a change of duties for those suffering from mental health problems.

In addition to this, employers can help to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace, by creating an environment where their employees can freely discuss wellbeing concerns.

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SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

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SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

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