Employees still don’t feel mental health issues get enough support at work.

Employers should take more preventative steps to promote good employee mental well-being, encouraging a culture of openness and provide training to managers to help support and signpost employees.  Investing in preventative measures, as well as building an open and supportive culture within the Company around mental health, could help to enhance people’s mental well-being.

The top 5 ways that employers can help provide support to their employees at work, include: –

1. Phased Return to Work Programmes

2. Access to Flexible Working

3. Access to Occupational Health Services

4. Access to Counselling Services

5. Access to an Employee Assistance Programme

There are several types of support that are not rarely provided, such as: –

1. Resilience or mindfulness training for employees;

2. Training for line managers in managing and supporting people with mental health problems;

3. Having mental health champions to raise awareness of the importance of mental health at work and the support available.

Employers should consider implementing these more preventative types of steps to promote good mental health, as well as reactive approaches that come into play when people are already experiencing poor mental health.

In the case of Dove v Brown & Newirth Mr. Dove was awarded £63,391 for age discrimination.  He had been a salesperson with the jewellery manufacturer, Brown & Newirth since 1990 during which time there were no issues with his work until a restructure in 2010 that resulted in younger team members being introduced and a younger Sales Director.  This is when the situation started to deteriorate as the Sale Director nicknamed Mr. Dove ‘Gramps’.

Mr. Dove continued to work within the sales team and did not complain about the ‘Gramps’ nickname.  In 2015 he was informed that his traditional approach to sales was out of touch with their business needs and customers found him to be old fashioned or long in the tooth.  The Company informed him that as a result of this his customers were being transferred to other sale persons and that as no alternative work could be found for him he was dismissed.

Mr. Dove lodged a case for unfair dismissal on the grounds of Age Discrimination which the tribunal upheld.  The tribunal found that he had been treated less favourably because of his age. The vocabulary used to describe customer views related to age.  The employer then acted on these discriminatory and stereotypical attitudes.  Having his customers transferred to a younger salesperson also reinforced this less favourable treatment. The employer had failed to have a proper performance process and had not investigated or challenged customer views.

Through a targeted recruitment initiative, cloud and software company SAP have employed 100 members of staff in three years who are on the autistic spectrum.

The scheme was introduced in 2013 and is designed to target people with autism as part of the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.  SAP partnered with a specialist recruiter to identify candidates for technology-focused roles such as software testing, programming and data management.

The programme was first piloted in India before being rolled out in the US, Germany, Canada and Ireland. However, the scheme is yet to be introduced in the UK because it does not currently have a large enough presence in the region.

SAP employees volunteer to become ‘buddies’, helping new autistic recruits settle into the organisation.  Long-serving employees who have a thorough understanding of the company and its culture are encouraged to mentor the new recruits.

Stefanie Nennstiel, global leader for autism at work and senior director of diversity and inclusion emphasised that the recruitment drive is not a corporate social responsibility initiative. Staff who volunteer to be a buddy and those recruited by the scheme “become better communicators on both sides of the equation”.

When it comes to recruitment, Nennstiel said companies need to “look beyond qualifications and interview skills, which many autistic people really struggle with. Different people’s styles help businesses and employees become more creative and innovative. Many companies need new skills and behavioural styles, and people with autism form just one possible talent pool.”

Nennstiel hopes that by 2020 SAP will have one streamlined recruitment process for all applicants.  “It positively impacts our brand and company identity, thought leadership and ability to capture the best possible talent. Our employees are really proud of what we do,” she added.

According to research from the National Autistic Society, just 15 per cent of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment and 53 per cent would like to receive employment support.

The key facts are straightforward: from 6 April 2017, employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million will pay a 0.5 per cent levy to fund apprenticeships. The government’s aim is to raise £3bn a year to create three million more ‘high quality’ apprenticeships by 2020.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

• The levy is essentially a new tax to be introduced in April 2017, the purpose of which is to fund an increase in the number and quality of apprenticeships.

• The levy will apply to all UK employers in both the private and public sectors, regardless of whether or not they have apprentices. It will be payable on annual pay bills of more than £3 million.

•For those employers within the construction and engineering sector who already pay into an existing levy scheme, a consultation is expected to take place on whether the existing arrangements will be affected when the new apprenticeship levy comes into force.

How will it work?

• The levy will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill. Levy payments will be collected monthly by HMRC though PAYE alongside tax and National Insurance.

• Employers will have a fixed annual allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. Employers who operate multiple payrolls will only be able to claim one allowance for the levy.

• Employers’ funding for apprenticeship training in England will then be made available via a new Digital Apprenticeship Service account. The government will apply a 10% top-up to monthly funds entering levy paying employer’s digital accounts.

• Employers can then use the funds in their account to pay for training, assessment and certification for apprenticeships. This will be subject to a cap depending on the level and type of apprenticeship.

• Employers will not, however, be able to use the funding to cover all the costs associated with taking on an apprentice, such as overheads, supervision costs and apprentices’ wages.

• Employers may have to contribute additional funds where the cost of the training they wish to buy is greater than the funding cap for a particular apprenticeship or where they have spent all of their levy contribution and all of their top-up and wish to spend more on additional apprenticeship training.

What support will be available?

The Digital Apprenticeship Service will also support employers to:

• Identify a training provider(s) to deliver training (the funding can only be spent on an approved provider)

• Choose an apprenticeship training course; and

• Find a candidate by posting apprenticeship vacancies.

The intention is that the main functions of this service will be in place by April 2017.

In addition a new independent body, the Institute for Apprenticeships, is being set up to regulate the quality of apprenticeships. The Institute will be able to advise on setting funding caps, approving apprenticeship standards and assessments plans. Again, the intention is that it will be fully operational by April 2017.

The ability to discuss ones religious beliefs freely in the workplace has always presented difficulties for employers.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal has re-emphasised that disciplinary action for the way an employee shares their religious beliefs can be lawful.  Employers are exposed when employees conflicting religious beliefs may lead to allegations of harassment, particularly in the instance of a manager impressing their views/ beliefs on a junior employee.  Employers should be careful that action is taken for unwanted conduct and not just religious beliefs as the European Convention protects consensual conversations regarding religious beliefs.

Mental Health issues are now the biggest reason for employees being absent from work. Recent statistics show that on average 131 million days are lost to sickness absence in the UK each year.   This is equivalent to 4.4 days per worker.

So what obligations do employers have to their employees where mental health issues arise or are suspected?

  • Employers are obliged to investigate and ascertain the genuine medical position of employees who have advised or are showing symptoms of mental health issues such as stress or depression.
  • Employers are obliged to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace and jobs for those employees found to be suffering from a disability.

With the requirement for investigation, employers should be alert to the potential symptoms of mental health issues in order that they can ensure their obligations are met. To that end it is useful to know what these symptoms may look like and the list below should trigger action from those employers wishing to avoid claims of unfair dismissal, disability discrimination or damages for psychiatric injury:

  • A decline in performance
  • Loss of motivation
  • Not using annual leave or doing increasing amounts of overtime
  • Employees withdrawing
  • Aggression

For further advice on handling mental health in the workplace, contact your Solve representative.