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Acas Guidance for Employers on Dealing with Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

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The growing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace is an immensely positive step forward for both employees and employers. Acas have recently published guidance that seeks to help employers deal with their duties in relation to mental health issues in the workplace.

The statistics for mental health are quite stark:

  • one in four of us will experience mental health issues it at some point in our lives (according to the government’s Department of Health);
  • in 2015/16, over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill (Health and Safety Executive).

Unfortunately, mental health, has and continues to attract stigma, with many employees unwilling to admit they are stressed and affected by mental health issues. Efforts to remove that stigma are gaining momentum and employers are now encouraged – and in some cases legally obliged - to deal with stress and mental health in the workplace and to help their staff receive the help and care they need.

Employers’ Responsibilities for Mental Health issues in the Workplace

Employers have their role to play in relation to dealing with mental health issues in the workplace and must be aware of their legal responsibilities to employees affected by such issues. Employers should be aware that:

  • in some cases, an employee’s mental health issues can amount to a disability. Employers then have a duty to make adjustments to the workplace to allow those employees to do their job; and
  • aside from legal requirements in relation to staff with mental health issues (which employers must undertake), there are other practices in the workplace that employers should undertake.

Acas guidance

To make employers’ legal responsibilities clearer, Acas has produced a number of useful guides:

  • Promoting positive mental health in the workplace", was published in October 2017 and deals with:
    • understanding mental health – what it is and how it can be caused as well as understanding the associated stigma;
    • how employers can make a commitment to improving mental health at work (including development of action plan to change attitudes and creating policies that deal with mental health);
    • identifying ways to improve the workplace by tackling work-related causes of mental health and setting up support for staff;
    • training staff and managers on how to deal with mental health; and
    • setting out where employers can go for further support.
  • "Dealing with Stress in the Workplace" which you can read here. The guide explains what stress is, what causes stress, why employers should try to reduce the causes of stress, how to reduce it, how to recognise when staff are stressed and how to support them;
  • "Managing Staff Experiencing Mental Ill Health" which you can read here. This deals with the role of the manager and how to spot the signs of mental ill health in your staff. There are some tips on how to approach a sensitive conversation with an employee and how to make adjustments for staff experiencing mental ill health issues. Another issue dealt with is how to support those staff who cover for the absences of ill colleagues.

Government Support

The government is stepping up its support for those with mental health issues. It is, for example, reforming the mental health service*. Also, in the last month, the Department of Health has launched a new £15 million grant scheme to improve mental healthcare**. Called “The Beyond Places of Safety”, the fund will focus on improving urgent mental healthcare in local areas and is intended to help: prevent people from reaching crisis point in the first place; and develop new approaches to support people who experience a mental health crisis.


For more information about employment law issues relating to mental health as well as mental health policies for the workplace, contact Susan Mayall on 0161 684 6948 or make an enquiry.


* The government’s Mental Health Service reform ** Beyond Places of Safety scheme



Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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