Mental ill health affects one in six workers in the UK. Conditions range from stress and anxiety through to more serious conditions such as bipolar and schizophrenia. It is essential that employers understand these conditions and know how best to support workers. Historical concepts such as “madness” are simply outdated. They should have no place in any organisations thinking today.
Mental illness is literally that – an illness – and is just like any other illness an employee may present with. Making reasonable adjustments to the workplace, as well as identifying areas that cause additional stress are two ways of working towards a happier, more productive workforce.
Stressors are things that cause stress and triggers are things that can start feelings of anxiety. Stressors in the workplace could be targets, workload, long hours or feeling undervalued. Triggers in the workplace could include having to speak in front of a large group of people, having poor self-esteem or having too much pressure.
There are six things in the workplace that can lead to or exasperate work related stress, theses are:
Mental health problems in the workplace can lead to a high turnover over in staff, presenteeism, absence, mistakes, low productivity, accidents and errors if not managed effectively.
Mental health: a state of well being in which an individual can cope with the normal stresses of life and can work productively.
Mental ill health: a person’s emotional well being has been affected.
Reasonable adjustments: changes to enable a person to work more easily and give them the equal opportunities.
Presenteeism: the act of attending work while sick.
Stress: the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.
Depression: ranges from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful or anxious.
Anxiety: a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Walker v Northumberland County Council
A social worker, Mr. Walker, dealing with child abuse cases was overloaded with work and not given enough support. He was diagnosed with stress related anxiety following two breakdowns and was dismissed by the Council on the grounds of permanent ill health.
The Council was found to have breached its duty and costs were:
These are to establish if the applicant can take part in an assessment to determine whether any resonable adjustments need to be made to enable a disabled person to participate in an assessment during the recruitment process and to find out if a job applicant is able to perform a function which is intrinsic to the job.
By James Murphy
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