Employers have a general statutory duty to ensure the mental health and safety of their workers. In addition, they owe a common law duty to take reasonable care of their employees’ safety.
I think we are all acutely aware of the impact that the Covid-19 health crisis has and will continue to have on the physical mechanics of working. For those of us able to, the advice is to continue to work at home. It means no physical time with colleagues, more conference calling, and for as long as the nurseries and schools remain closed, more juggling personal and professional commitments. And limited places to escape to after a stressful day.
I am 8 months into a training contract and sharing the childcare responsibilities of my toddler with my husband who has just started a new role (t’s all about timing!). I know many other people will be dealing with a lot more and without the support of a partner. Even so, life is currently stressful.
We all deal with our work demands and stresses in very different ways. For me, talking helps but too many employees are not given the opportunity or don’t feel able to talk to colleagues about work stress. Some will say everything is fine when it is not and one video call a day (or week) is a blunt tool for employers to pick up on whether their employees are experiencing mental ill health.
The general statutory duty to ensure workers’ health is as far as is reasonably practicable. But what is reasonably practicable if the new workplace is our homes? Ensuring a safe work area, desk, chair etc is unlikely to prove the big challenge. Ensuring good mental health will be more challenging in these very challenging of times.
ACAS provide a comprehensive guide to employers managing staff experiencing mental ill health. The guide also has links to other organisations who can provide mental health support.
The theme of the Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness: kindness to each other, kindness to those experiencing difficulties, kindness to ourselves.
My kind act to myself this week has been to take a holiday. It is not Lanzarote (as originally planned) but I will be persuading my toddler to play with her daddy while I do some gardening in the sun. Wish me luck!