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Mental health in the work place
Human Resources » Heath, Safety & Well Being

Chrm Message From: madure Total Posts: 278 Join Date: 06/06/2006
Rank: Coach Post Date: 16/08/2006 00:03:19 Points: 1440 Location: Sri Lanka

People with mental health problems are not a uniform or homogenous group. Individuals will face challenges specific to themselves and many may need little or no support at work. However, discrimination against people who declare any mental health problems is still widespread - even though a significant proportion of the workforce will face mental health difficulties during their working life.

Employers should provide a healthy environment where all employees are supported to develop and utilise their skills and abilities to their full potential.

Work-related stress is the root cause of a significant degree of mental ill health. Stress can manifest itself in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased staff turnover. Excessive stress can lead to fatigue, impaired judgement and decision-making and the onset of both mental and physical health problems. For more infromation on this aspect of mental health, see our factsheet on stress.

Adjustments at work

Should an employee's work performance give rise for concern it is important to determine if the problem is related to disability caused by a mental health problem. In such cases appropriate adjustments based on the individual's circumstances can be made. When an adjustment is required the employee's manager will need to know that this is the case, but neither the manager nor fellow employees need to be told the medical reason behind the decision. Through the equal opportunities policy all employees should understand the benefits to be derived from the use of adjustments.

Returning to work after a long-term absence

The process of rehabilitation after a mental health problem will usually be more cost-effective and beneficial to both parties than early retirement. Therefore employers will need an effective absence management programme with early 'trigger' points, supported by effective communication between occupational health, HR and line managers.

To facilitate this process it is important to:

carry out a return-to-work interview to determine if the employee needs any adjustments to be made.
continue the process with follow-up interviews to monitor progress.
ensure effective and on-going communication between the employee, first line manager, and personnel and occupational health departments.
Clinical and professional advice

As with physical disability, there will be occasions when specialist advice is needed to assist someone with a mental health problem.

This may be when:

there are frequent short-term and/or long-term absences from work
the employee appears to be experiencing side-effects from medication
perceived unusual behaviour patterns take place.
There should be a procedure in place to ensure managers are confident as to the action to take place in seeking such advice. Advice should only be sought on specific issues directly related to the person's employment. Decisions affecting the employee should only be based on medical advice as it applies to the specific work environment.

Some assumptions about mental illness may mean that psychotic episodes or perceived dangerous behaviour patterns may be dramatised and exaggerated. In an organisation with an effective mental health policy the risk of inappropriate action by employees or managers will be minimised. Instead, there will be recognition that, as with serious physical illnesses, there are occasions when expert medical assistance is urgently needed to assist the person with a mental health problem.

As employers have a duty to make provision for emergencies that may affect the health and welfare of their employees it is essential to recognise the needs of all disabled employees, irrespective of the disability.

Implementing and auditing the mental health policy

It is crucial to the success of the policy that:

it is developed by a working group with a membership that represents the different work groups
there is commitment to the aims and objectives of the policy by employees and management
regular monitoring of performance against targets is undertaken
the review findings lead to a programme of continuous improvement

Base on CIPD resources

Prof.Lakshman Madurasinghe

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