Mental Health and Well Being - A Tricky Business for Employers

Mental health and wellbeing are increasingly common words used within the employment context. There is now significant awareness of these issues, and as a society we are all gaining insight and knowledge related to Mental Health, to some extent. That said, it is such a difficult subject for employers to manage effectively.

There is an abundance of information available to employers on those proactive measures that many employers will have in place to support the wellbeing of its people. This includes resources such as the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing at Work’ Toolkit.

Whilst we all wish to be on the front foot when it comes to managing mental health and wellbeing within the workforce, there are times when things occur in the workplace that are difficult to manage as an employer, irrespective of our skill set or experience.

I feel that there is a misalignment between the welfare of the employee, lack of education provided to employers and the various legal frameworks we are required to work within. I met a person from a DHB last week and endeavoured to explain the conundrum that employers have in supporting those vulnerable employees suffering from mental health issues. What to do in the event there is an episode in the workplace and how that potentially can place an employer at risk from a legal point of view. They suggested this problem was widespread……. but did commit to listening to some of these broader issues which was refreshing.

It is extremely difficult to establish answers and/or education to problems that occur in the workplace as a result of mental health issues. What can managers do? How can managers help? Whom should they contact? How do they keep the individual and their colleagues safe? How does the employer protect themselves from potential litigation whilst trying to do the right thing by their employee? How do managers balance an individual’s mental health issues with the need to perform a job effectively?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to all these questions, and I guess that is the point. I am advocating for better education for my clients, to understand how to deal with a variety of situations to protect the employee’s wellbeing whilst managing actual events when they occur, to consider the safety and wellbeing of the broader workforce without fear of reprisal.

I will keep you posted on any outcomes that may assist your business. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help you with any of your HR and employment related issues.

The HR Guy


M: 021 543 510

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