Does the responsibility of mental health lie with the employer?

In the UK today we find ourselves spending a significant proportion of our time at work.

For many of us the workplace is where we will experience pressures and stresses that will affect our mental health.   In a society where we are trying to cope with the demands our employer places upon us, as well as the demands from our family and relationships, the expectations whether real or perceived can soon become overwhelming.

It strikes me that still so many of us will keep how we are feeling a secret from our manager and work colleagues believing that we will be judged for discussing it, or worse still held back professionally.

When asked we will say “I’m okay” when really we aren’t okay.  Yet if we are experiencing a physical illness such as a cold or back pain, we are far more open with telling those around us how we are feeling.

The Mental Health at Work summary report commissioned by Business in the Community (2018)  states that:

  • 61% of UK employees have experienced a mental health issue due to work or where work was a contributing factor
  • 85% of managers feel that employee wellbeing is their responsibility but only 30% have taken part in mental health training.
  • 30% report having no workplace facility that could help mental health and wellbeing
  • Only 16% of employees felt able to disclose a mental health issue to a manager.

Reflecting on these statistics it poses the question “Does the responsibility of mental health lie with the employer?”

If how someone feels at work and how they perform is a direct result of the working culture and environment they are in, then is the employer responsible to create a workplace where people can thrive and succeed?

If an employee feels supported by their line manager will this make them feel able to work when they are experiencing difficulties as opposed to feeling obligated to do so?

In HR we are seeing more employers starting to recognise that they have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of their staff and are putting mental health on their boardroom agenda.

However, more needs to be done.  It’s not a quick fix overnight.  Leaders of the organisation need to be laying the foundations and leading by example as that is the only way it can be effective and sustainable.  Attitudes filter down from leaders and must be backed with policy and procedures.

As an employer, what support have you put in place and is it widely promoted and easy for your employees to access?

What is the uptake? What feedback have your staff given you?

Blog By Debbie Clegg – Mercury HR Business Partner