Lady with Mask

 Top employment lawyers have come together with mental health charity, @WirralMind, to answer questions on supporting employees’ mental health, and some of the legal issues involved. 

A team of employment lawyers have joined forces with leading mental health charity, Wirral Mind, to help businesses support employees that are continuing to work from home.

Paul Hennity and Steven Davies, Employment Law Solicitors at Aaron & Partners, provided expert advice and practical tips to help employers understand more about mental wellbeing and the impact remote working can have on individuals.

They were joined by Rachel Gilbert, Training Manager at Wirral Mind, for the session, with the team also answering a range of frequently asked mental health questions that have emerged throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul explained that with millions of UK workers forced to work from home due to the restrictions put in place by the Government, employers have faced many unique challenges that come with managing remote workforces.

He said: “A better and more positive working environment, where there is a focus on good mental health improves productivity, team morale and contributes to a positive reputation for your business.

“However, with research suggesting that 80 per cent of people in the UK felt that working from home had negatively impacted their mental health, employers are having to navigate an incredibly challenging period.

“COVID-19 and the subsequent national and regional lockdowns have affected all of our lives in one way or another and the situation has created a lot of uncertainty for everyone,” added Rachel.

“Employers must recognise the importance of supporting employees’ wellbeing and need to understand that everyone has experienced challenges and losses during this period.

“That’s why, together with Aaron & Partners, we wanted to answer some commonly asked questions to help employers understand the impact working from home has had and continues to have on employees, and how they can better support their mental health.”

Some of the key questions to come from the session have been listed below with advice from the speakers:

  1. Is there a duty on the employer even if the employee doesn’t have any obvious signs of mental health struggles?

Steven Davies explains that in contrast to physical impairments, mental impairments can often be more difficult to identify, and that can put an increased duty on employers to think carefully about mental health issues, which can so often be invisible. 

Under the Equality Act, several mental health issues can amount to a disability, and a common misconception is that employers that don’t know an employee is disabled can’t be liable, which we know is not always true due to the way in which the Equality Act is worded.  So, whilst an employer is not under a duty to make a reasonable adjustment if they do not know that the employee has a disability, the Act suggests that, in some circumstances, employers do have a duty to take the necessary steps to investigate if an employee has a disability, even where it may not be obvious.

  1. If you’re concerned about a member of staff’s mental health, how should managers approach it?

Employers should take the time to think about what they would need in that situation, and often employees talk about needing simple things like time, reassurance, respect and to be listened to, says Rachel Gilbert.

She continued to explain that it’s important when you approach an employee, to give them your full attention, plan a time to address employees concerns and don’t be afraid to ask how someone is and to show genuine concern for their wellbeing.

When you do approach an employee, there are three important things you could do to start the conversation. Firstly, note what you have observed, state your concerns and give reassurance and work with the person.

  1. If an employer doesn’t recognise the signs of an employee struggling with their mental health, what are the potential risks?

Steven highlights that a failure to recognise those signs can have a negative impact on the workplace, and there is evidence that workplaces with good mental health are far more productive. So, recognising the signs of poor mental health early, and taking steps to improve the situation will have a positive effect on both the employer and the employee. 

However, there are also legal consequences that we must consider, including claims for disability discrimination, and possibly unfair dismissal as well. An employment tribunal can order employers to pay compensation for loss of earnings due to the discrimination, and that is uncapped. They can also award compensation for any hurt or distress the employee has suffered because of that discrimination, which is referred to as an injury to feelings in law.  There is also the potential for personal injury claims if the employee has experienced stress or depression from the employer’s inaction. 

This could all result in expensive litigation, which can involve significant management time and legal costs which aren’t usually recoverable in employment tribunals.

  1. How can managers help employees stay motivated and engaged whilst working from home?

Rachel highlights that we all have mental health, and we all need to look after it as we would with our physical health. From an employer’s perspective, having open and honest discussions about mental health and the importance of it can be really beneficial.

It’s important to remind people to be taking regular breaks during the working day and think about how you can support them in doing things in and out of working hours that can help to improve their mental health, whether that’s getting good sleep, keeping a good work life balance, exercising or maintaining a good daily routine.

It’s really important to regularly check in with people and make sure that they are OK, ask whether there is anything they need from both a physical or mental health point of view or even from a workload point of view.

  1. Is there a point where working from home could be considered a permanent change to the place of work in an employment contract and would this cause employees’ rights to change? 

This is a really interesting question and something that many employers may not have considered, and which has received very little commentary explained Steven. In addition to the express terms contained within a written contract of employment, which, amongst other things,would usually set out where an employee is required to work, it is important to remember that a term can also be implied into a contract of employment by virtue of custom and practice, even if it is not expressly stated.

In determining whether this is possible or not, consider if the practice has been followed, without exception, for a substantial period of time.The longer this period, the more likely it is to become a term of the contract. Therefore, applying these principles, I think it is possible, in the future, that working from home could become an implied term of an employees’ contract. However, at this stage of the pandemic, my opinion is that it would be difficult for an employee to argue an implied terms to work from home because for most employers it is clearly a temporary measure put in place as a result of government restrictions and guidelines.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page