This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is likely to be relevant to more people than ever before. As a collective group, have workers in the UK ever had a more troublesome and worrisome period? Has there ever been a time where employee mental health has been of greater concern?
I suspect the answer to both questions above is no.
Whilst this topic is likely to be high on the agenda for most Zoom meetings between managers and their staff, it is important to reflect on what options are available to you if you find yourself struggling with your mental health, particularly as employers and employees alike grapple with the challenges of moving out of lockdown and as the working population get back to work.
Despite the real-world changes caused by the coronavirus, the law regarding employee safety at work remains unchanged. For example, an employer still has a legal obligation to protect its employees from mental ill heath once it becomes aware of the effect work is having on their health.
At Setfords, we have seen an increase in enquiries from employees who have reported their failing mental health but received very little by way of support. Such enquiries include:
- A failure of employers (typically NHS Trusts and care home providers) under Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 to provide correct PPE to front line care providers. Particularly category 3 health care workers who have cared for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID 19 cases but haven’t been provided with the same level of PPE as colleagues performing category 1 tasks.
- A failure by a particular employer to ensure that key workers could perform their roles whilst adhering to government guidance on social distancing during the lockdown.
- A failure by an employer who refused to allow an employee to work from home or to be put on the furlough scheme firstly due an incorrect assessment they were a key worker; and secondly because work at home equipment was reserved for those performing at a higher level.
But there are 4 steps I’d recommend before you consider taking legal action.
- Speak to your GP. Above all else, your health should be your main priority and recognising symptoms early and receiving appropriate medical support is paramount.
- Let your employer know. This may sound overly simplistic, but your employer cannot be expected to act positively to reduce your stress levels without first being on notice that you are suffering.
- Submit a grievance. I would always advocate attempting to resolve issues informally first, normally with a line manager. However, if you are not being listened to or find your manager has not been sympathetic to your concerns, then formally recording these in the form of a grievance should engage your employer’s grievance policy to ensure they are looked at by an appropriate and impartial officer of the company.
- Request an Occupational Health Referral. They are the experts in recommending the reasonable adjustments required to relieve your stress symptoms. Be open with them, they are there to help you and be sure your employer actually implements their recommendations.
If these actions do not help to reduce your stress levels and further action is required, make sure you instruct lawyers who are experienced in advising about both employment and personal injury claims.
If you feel that you are suffering from work-related stress, take our one-minute survey to see if you should consider making a claim against your employer.
David Miers is an occupational stress and psychiatric injury specialist. You can contact him here.
Please note that these guides are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. You can contact one of our expert consultant lawyers using the form below.