Is there a mental health at work act?
07 February 2022
During the course of the pandemic, more people than ever experienced mental health problems. While there is no specific mental health at work act, mental health in the workplace is covered under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Equality Act 2010. Together, these two laws ensure that a safe working environment incorporates mental wellbeing and that if you do experience a mental illness, you’re protected from discrimination.
Work stress and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to provide a safe working environment for all employees. Work related stress comes under section 2 of the Act which states that employers must try to reduce stress in the workplace “as far as is reasonably practical”. This means that workplaces should have an awareness of situations which might contribute to or cause stress to employees and take measures to improve this.
While stress isn’t an official medical diagnosis, it can have a major impact on our lives. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of adults in the UK experienced stress to the point of being overwhelmed and feeling unable to cope. In the short term, stress can impact day to day functioning while prolonged stress can cause further health problems, so it’s important to address it before it becomes unmanageable.
Mental health and the Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act prevents people in the UK from being discriminated against under a group of protected characteristics. Mental health is considered under the disability category based on how a mental health condition impacts your life.
The Equality Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
It’s less about what the disability or condition is, and more about how it affects your life. In the workplace, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for individuals with mental health conditions. This will vary depending on the condition and the needs of the person.
How mental health issues can impact work
If someone is experiencing mental health issues it can have an impact on how they function across different aspects of their lives, which includes work. This could range from struggling to focus and concentrate on tasks to feeling tired and run down, impacting their performance. Individuals may be experiencing:
- Low mood
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lowered self esteem
These are just some examples of symptoms that someone might be experiencing during times of poor mental health. The NHS website also gives a comprehensive breakdown of the signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions.
Stigma and awareness
Mental health is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but we often don’t take the time to really think about what it means. Put simply, we all have mental health. It can fluctuate up and down throughout our lives, much like our physical health, and mental illness can affect anyone.
It’s normal to have days where you feel down or stressed, particularly during difficult life events or when you’re juggling multiple priorities. However, if these kinds of feelings persist and are having an impact on your day-to-day life, there could be something more going on.
One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue every year, yet there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it which can stop sufferers from reaching out. The decision to reach out and ask for help can be incredibly difficult for someone experiencing mental distress, so being aware of the signs of mental health issues is incredibly important. Mental health awareness courses can help with this.
If everyone has a better understanding of mental health issues, your workplace is much more likely to be a safe and judgment-free space. People suffering will then be more likely to open up, while others will have the right knowledge to support their colleagues through difficult times.
Mental health awareness course
Check out our mental health awareness course to ensure your employees get the right information on mental health at work.View course