“We all have mental health, like we all have physical health. That’s fine as long as we don’t bring it into the workplace.”
We’ve all come across that sort of traditional attitude – perhaps even strayed into having those thoughts – the idea that it’s best to avoid recruiting someone with any hint of a mental health problem, and that if something comes to light while they are employed then it’s best just to say goodbye to them.
Of course everyone knows that doesn’t cut it anymore. Not legally, and not morally either. Most businesses (and certainly most of the people within them) now recognise that someone experiencing mental health problems deserves support and sympathy, not censure. Yet somehow it’s not always as easy as it should be to put those good intentions into practice. How can you create an environment where well-being is a priority, and still get the work done? How can you talk to someone who may be struggling without risking offending them? How can you know if you can rely on an individual to do their job? What about duty of care – once you know about someone’s vulnerabilities, do you risk being held responsible if they suffer a breakdown? How can you help someone with an addiction problem, or where workplace relationships seem to have turned toxic? These are questions that come up time and time again; questions that even the most adept and expert of HR Professionals worry about and questions that employment lawyers find difficult to advise on.
Often we get the best answers when we look at things from more than one perspective, and with changing attitudes to mental health so prominent in our current national dialogue, I was determined that our first Employment Law Plus seminar should be focussed around Mental Health in the Workplace. Employment Law Plus is a new venture for us, where we collaborate with experts in different fields to give a broader perspective on a particular issue. Yes, you need to know about disability discrimination, incapacity dismissals and duty of care, but you also need to know about current thinking in the mental health field itself, what support is out there for employees, and how you can get the best out of your occupational health provider.
I’m looking forward to 12 November, because I know I’m going to learn a lot. I’m sure I’ll learn not only from the other experts we’ve got lined up, but also from our participants sharing their experiences of challenges and solutions in their workplaces.
It irks me to see seminars advertised as if your attendance will, at one stroke, solve all your problems in a particular field. I know that our clients are more sophisticated than that. We’re not going to get together on 12 November and invent a pill that cures every known mental health condition, and short of doing that this area is always going to be one of the most tricky and sensitive that we have to deal with. But let’s get informed about it, let’s ask the questions we thought were stupid, let’s do some myth-busting. Above all, let’s talk.
If you would like more details about the Mental Health in the Workplace Seminar taking place on 12 November, please click here.