Mental Health and Wellbeing Support

Over the last 6 months mental health and wellbeing support has become a hot topic, as data emerges about anxiety and stress levels in the context of returning to work and to the workplace.

What do we know?

Some key statistics regarding mental health and wellbeing are coming to light:

  • 72% or employers are planning to bring teams back to the office by mid-October 1
  • 33% of UK workers don’t have faith in their colleagues when it comes to hygiene protocols 1
  • 44% of workers are worried about sharing equipment 1
  • By end May 2020 calls to the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline had increased by 66% 2
  • The number of adults experiencing depression has doubled during the pandemic 3
  • 37% of people in the UK are suffering from high anxiety 3
  • 22% of those with no pre-existing mental health issues now report having ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ mental health 4
  • 65% of those with pre-existing mental health issues report that those issues are now worse 4

In the context of these statistics, fears of a mental health crisis seem well founded.

What does this mean for employers?

There are potentially many ways in which the mental health crisis will affect employees, as people will have had very different experiences of the pandemic. Here are some of the issues your employees may be having:

  • Job security – as more and more businesses announce job losses, anxiety about impending unemployment will be high
  • Isolation – for some remote working has left them feeling isolated and de-motivated
  • Mental and physical exhaustion – for many who had to balance work and childcare and/or home-schooling it has been extremely stressful and tiring, creating what could manifest itself as ‘burn-out’.
  • Personal relationship stress – spending such a long time in close proximity with partners may have put a strain on relationships
  • PTSD and bereavement – for anyone who contracted the virus, there are reports of potential longer term mental and physical issues; and those who have lost loved ones may still be dealing with grief and feelings of guilt

Employees may find it difficult to focus, concentrate and  stay motivated and engaged. For those who are working from home for the foreseeable future, the feeling of being disconnected from their colleagues may continue. Without interventions, these issues could result in both a downturn in productivity and difficult and sensitive employee relations issues to manage.

Pro-active employers will definitely be on the front-foot if they can support employees through the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Why should employers focus on mental health and wellbeing?

As well as the ethical and moral arguments for supporting employees who are struggling, there is evidence to suggest that wellbeing could increase productivity by 12% and that unhappy staff could be 10% less effective. 5

If employers do provide support for their employees, they would undoubtedly become more resilient. If issues arise at any point in the future those employees will be able to manage more successfully, leading to less employee absence.

Employers will also find that how they treat people during this time will define them and their brand. Being supportive will drive both loyalty and make them a more attractive employer for the best talent in the longer term.

From a practical perspective, if employers ‘catch people’ before they fall, they will avoid difficult employee absence issues which can be time-consuming and expensive to manage.

There is also the issue of the duty of care employers have for employees. Employers have a duty to minimise risk of health and safety issues, and this includes the risk of mental health issues. Risk assessments should be done, steps taken to minimise risk and these should both be communicated to employees to ensure employers don’t breach of health and safety regulations.

In addition, as mental health issues can be regarded as a disability, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate and support those with mental health issues.

What can employers do?

There is a plethora of solutions to address the mental health and wellbeing. Here are some ideas:

Communication: Make people feel connected and find out how people are feeling.
  • Conduct regular group and individual check-ins
  • Hold virtual team meetings – peer or manager lead
  • Create virtual ‘pub’ meet ups over video conference
  • Appoint ‘check-in’ champions in each team who can re-create the ‘water cooler’ catch up moments
Line manager proactivity: Create a supportive environment.
  • Be a sympathetic ear – not just focussing on work / outputs
  • Train managers as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Ensure managers are keeping up to date with how individuals in their team are coping
  • If returning to workplaces is causing anxiety, ensure managers are discussing options and solutions to help address those anxieties.
  • Communicate with employees to reassure them about what the company is doing to minimise risks
Update or create a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy

Re-visit your existing policy and update it to account for issues created by the coronavirus pandemic and different norms relating to work and workplaces. This will create the framework within which the business will function in this area, and create consistency.

Research, propose and implement a variety of support ideas to tackle the variety of issues people may be experiencing, to cover physical health, diet, financial health as well as mental health and wellbeing. All of these factors play a part in keeping employees healthy in body and mind.

If you would like to discuss support you could put in place for your employees, get in touch with Helpful HR here.

References:

1 – Solopress Survey via HR Review: https://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/workers-fear-returning-to-work-due-to-colleagues-lack-of-hygiene/126356?utm_source=Gatormail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HR+Daily+Friday+-+17-07-2020&utm_term=Government+bury+its+%27head+in+the+sand%27+in+response+to+House+of+Lords+IR35+report&utm_content=108317&gator_td=o3G5kc7rW2VpP8pLbvvPKX8i65b%2blZYHTpgu38q3MGha0tK5Q3sXgBaP1prmh6Uahsujuoe2CuGf6B3yFqphtXubssiphNgkvdH1KnKkAGx3lvuNf7CA%2bu8sK%2bvpNvjxNCLDEd8aOmaV9F4yS%2bf%2f2pCjx64K0MeyKpb1VszBRbl53pQV6Ng3a%2fnLQ8Dir5b9XfQusRxJpXxh1CL8mZhbHg%3d%3d

2 – Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/domestic-abuse-lockdown-reports-school-reopen-coronavirus-a9703926.html

3 – Office of National Statistics via People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/legal/supporting-workers-mental-health-during-covid?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_03092020.Employment+law%3a+Supporting+workers’+mental+health+during+Covid&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/voices/comment/employers-must-act-restore-workforce-mental-health?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_24072020.Opinion%3a+Employers+must+act+to+restore+their+workforce’s+mental+wellbeing&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

4 – Mind via People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/voices/comment/employers-must-act-restore-workforce-mental-health?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_24072020.Opinion%3a+Employers+must+act+to+restore+their+workforce’s+mental+wellbeing&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

5 – University of Warwick study in 2015: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/

 

Employment law changes in April 2020

As an employer it’s important to know of any forthcoming employment law changes. Being aware of the changes ensures you can prepare for them and protect your business from any legal claims. Here’s a rundown of the changes taking effect from April 2020.

Introducing parental bereavement leave

An Act passed in 2018 has resulted in the introduction of parental bereavement leave to provide support for bereaved parents. The leave will be available to parents who lose a child under 18, or suffer a still-birth in the later stages of pregnancy.

What is it?

Employees will be entitled to 2 weeks leave, and employees with 26-weeks continuous service will also be entitled to pay at the statutory rate. This leave is separate from the statutory right to unpaid time-off in an emergency, and compassionate leave which is discretionary.

Action to take

Employers should take the following steps, prior to April 2020:

  • review your current leave policies and decide if you will follow or exceed the minimum requirements of this legislation;
  • review and update policies and handbook to include this entitlement, as well as any other policies which may benefit from this information (for example, any family friendly policies);
  • consider if you need to review and update other content in your handbook, and
  • review and update your contracts of employment, so they are fit for purpose.

More information

Changes to written statements of particulars of employment

The current law states that written statements must be issued by employers to their employees within 2 months of their start date.  The new law will require employers to give all workers (not just employees) a written statement on or before their start date. In addition the written statements must include:

  • the hours and days of the week the worker /employee is required to work, if they are varied and how;
  • any details of a probationary period;
  • their entitlements to paid leave;
  • any details of training provided by the employer and
  • other benefits not covered elsewhere in the written statement.
Action to take

Employers should take the following steps, prior to April 2020:

  • be aware of exactly what needs to be included in the written statement;
  • know about any other information which needs to be provided to employees in writing;
  • ensure you have a template statement / contract of employment which is ready to use, should you need to make a new hire and
  • review your current written statement / contract of employment to ensure it complies with the new requirements.

More information

Increase in the holiday pay reference period from 12 weeks to 52 weeks

The reference period for calculating holiday pay for workers with irregular hours will change. Employers will need to look back over the past 52 weeks for the purposes of calculating holiday pay.

IR35 changes for the private and public sector

The public sector IR35 reforms will be extended to cover medium and large private-sector employers. This means that responsibility for determining if IR35 applies to independent contractors will shift to the organisation, not the individual. Employers should review whether they fall in to the category ‘medium’ or ‘large’ employer and then review their contractors and pay arrangements to determine how the new rules will affect them.

More information

If you’re concerned about what these employment law changes mean for your business and need help in preparing for them, please get in touch with Helpful HR.

 

 

Getting redundancies right

In a tough economic environment employers may conclude they need to reduce headcount and make some redundancies.

If that’s the case, there’s a statutory process to follow before making people redundant. It’s important to get the process right to avoid unnecessary disputes or Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal.

Here are some key points to remember if you think you need to make redundancies.

Make sure it’s a genuine redundancy

Redundancy is about the role, not the person. The redundancy process should never be used to dismiss a specific employee in place of performance management and a disciplinary process. A redundancy is only genuine if it fits within one of the following descriptions:

    • the employer ceases to carry on the business in which the employee was employed,
    • the employer ceases to carry on that business in the place where the employee was employed,
    • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind cease or diminish, or
    • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where the employee was employed cease or diminish.
Preparation is key

Once you have established the reason for the redundancy of a role, prepare some notes for the consultation process. These notes should include key information you need to communicate:

    • why you need to make redundancies,
    • which jobs are at risk,
    • how employees will be selected for redundancy,
    • the number of people who could be involved,
    • how you plan to carry out redundancies,
    • how redundancy pay will be calculated and
    • details of any agency workers at the company
Fulfil your obligations

Establish the timeframes within which you need to consult and whether you need to consult a trade union, or elected representatives. If you plan to make more than 20 people redundant within 90 days you will need to do collective consultation, so it’s important to know your obligations.

Plan for the process

Prepare your notes and make sure you know the timeframes and consultation requirements. It can then be helpful to create a communication plan for the consultation process. The plan should include details of the consultation with potentially redundant employees as well as other team members who may be affected by the changes.

Make proposals

When the consultation is complete, a redundancy can be confirmed. True consultation involves listening to alternative ideas to avoid redundancies, considering any contractor or agency worker roles instead and redeployment opportunities within the company. It’s also important to ensure the affected employees fully understand the reasons for the consultation and what it means for them specifically. Prior to consultation being completed any redundancy plans should be presented as proposals, subject to consultation.

 

If you’re making large-scale redundancies, it can result in a long and complex process, but whether it affects one employee or 50, it’s still important to get it right and consider their rights and how the news will affect them. Good planning and communication is key.

We work with businesses during difficult times and help to take away the worries about getting it wrong, so if you’re business needs to make these difficult decisions, get in touch with Helpful HR.

The Employment Status Conundrum

The ‘gig’ economy has been centre stage recently in the news and has caused confusion around individual’s employment and tax status.

Recent cases

Uber is adamant its drivers are NOT employees. However, an employment tribunal  concluded they are, ‘workers’.  Addison Lee  also had a recent employment tribunal judgement, which came to the same conclusion.

The consequences

These cases demonstrate the pitfalls of getting it wrong, on a large scale. The judgements of the tribunals have definitely provided Uber and Addison Lee with bucketloads of negative PR.  They also have the administrative headache of changing their status, backdated rights to holiday pay and the National Living Wage. There’s also a strong chance that HMRC will collect backdated employer’s tax contributions for all of their newly defined workers.

How to establish status

In order to avoid the same problems as Uber and Addison Lee, employers are well advised to make a proactive and honest assessment of people they hire and ask the following:

  • Does the individual work off-site?
  • Are they using their own equipment?
  • Is there a mutual obligation about you offering work and the individual having to accept work when offered?
  • Does the individual regularly work for other companies?
  • Can the individual send someone else of their choosing by way of a substitute, to carry out the work?
  • Does the individual control how or when the work is completed?

If the answer to one or more of the above questions is ‘no’, the individual you’re hiring is probably not self-employed. If you treat them as self-employed, in the long-term you may very well come up against some difficult and costly issues.

We can help

If you need any advice or support on determining the employment status of individuals working for your company and what it means, get in touch with Helpful HR.