Mental health issues are the major cause of all staff absence yet still people often feel unsupported and stigmatized when they return to work after an extended period of absence due to anxiety or depression.  Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

Although the symptoms are not as easy to recognize as physical injuries or ailments, people should be treated with the same compassion and support upon their return. Instead, people often find themselves shunned by work colleagues or managers.  Whilst people would have no problem asking how a broken bone is healing or how someone is recovering after an operation, people often feel uncomfortable asking about how a person is recovering from mental illness.

The key to fostering a positive and healthy workforce is to ensure that managers understand the importance of mental health.  Theresa May recently announced her ambition to reduce stigma around mental health and encouraged employers to act now.  It may be time to think about creating a formal Policy within your organization which sets out a commitment to safeguarding the well-being and mental health of all staff.

Employers should also consider doing the following:

  • Promoting healthier lifestyles, inside and out of the workplace.
  • Employing professionals to run mental health awareness sessions for all staff and openly encouraging discussion surrounding mental health issues is a step forward.
  • Providing employee assistance programmes, which offer employees access to a free confidential helpline, expert advice, counsellors and online resources.
  • Encouraging open, regular and honest dialogue between line managers and staff to give employees the opportunity to talk about problems at an early stage.
  • Having regular catch up sessions to allow managers to observe the well-being of individuals.

Finally, not only do well supported employees recover better after illness, but a failure in the duty of care towards a members of staff’s mental well-being may well be lead to either a personal injury claim or a claim for constructive unfair dismissal and/or discrimination at the employment tribunal.

For further information on the implications of mental health problems at work or to discuss preparing a suitable employment policy call Antonia Brewer or Henry Doswell of Doswell Law on 01233 722942 or email us at

Disclaimer: Whilst every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary contained in this blog accurate and up to date, Henry Doswell takes no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it. The information and commentary in this blog does not constitute legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter.