Policies and practices to be aware of
Legislation relating to mental well-being in the workplace
Employers have legal responsibilities to employees with stress and mental health conditions. The main areas of legislation that relate to the mental well-being in the workplace are:
Equality Act: Your responsibilities
This Act brings together a range of anti-discriminatory law and includes protection for people with mental health conditions ‘where the impairment has lasted or expect to last 12 months and where there has been substantial adverse effect’. It covers the whole employment process including recruitment, the terms and conditions of employment, the period when the person is employed, promotion, redundancy and the termination of employment.
There is an expectation on the employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable the employee to carry out their duties. What is considered reasonable will vary depending on the size of your organisation, the practicalities of the adjustments required, how effective the adjustment will be and the disruption caused.
Health and Safety: Your responsibilities
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to provide a workplace that is safe and healthy and ensure employees do not suffer from illnesses caused by work-related stress.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations requires employers to be active about identifying risks. Thus a risk assessment is required to assess issues relating to health & safety – including stress – and make sure there are adequate controls in place to deal with the issue. If there is a ‘reasonable likelihood’ that stress could cause ill health, employers also have to provide health surveillance for affected staff.
The HSE Offences Act does not alter the responsibilities of employers but it does give the courts a wider range of hearing the case and of sentencing. Previously most breaches of health and safety regulations were subject to a fine not exceeding £5,000 in the Magistrates Courts. This Law significantly increase the maximum fine to £20,000. Plus certain offences, that were previously only triable in the Magistrates Courts, are now triable in Crown Courts too, and can result in a real possibility of two year jail sentences being imposed which can be accompanied by an unlimited fine.