Dealing with mental health issues in the workplace

image of a manA healthy workforce and a healthy workplace

As workers we spend a large part of our day in a working environment. Our health is affected by our working environment and in turn our health impacts our workplace and our fellow workers.

This can be a very complex relationship.

This article examines what an employer can do to cope with health issues that may arise in the workplace. It is important to look at what might happen, so that if it does, at least you are aware of it.

Good workplace health flows from implementing good procedures, which include prevention, hazard identification, risk assessment and health surveillance.

What are the mental health issues which can arise in the workplace?

The following issues are arising with greater frequency in the Irish workplace, anxiety,depression,major mood disorders, stress, illness resulting from workplace bullying and the psychological aspects of violence. Stress was the second highest reported work-related health issue in the EU-15 member states in May 2008.

How can I deal with mental health issues at work?

It is important to look at the mental health issue which has arisen. Does it stem from a work related cause? If the answer is yes the employer needs to examine how it arose and what steps can be taken to prevent it happening again and also to help the employee recover.

If the issue arises from outside work, then you should look at how it affects the employee's ability to perform their duties and whether it affects fellow workers, to whom you also owe a duty of care to provide a safe working environment.




Have you a sick leave policy?

In the course of investigating the health issue it may be necessary to obtain an independent medical assessment. If you have a sick leave policy it should include a clause requiring the employee to attend an independent medical assessment. If you do not have such a clause, then you will require the consent of the employee to such an examination. In that case you should request the employee to attend such an assessment in writing so that you can verify this at a later stage if it ends up in the Employment Appeals Tribunal. You should make a number of written requests.

What if an employee states that they are mentally unwell in the course of a disciplinary process?

You should suspend the disciplinary or other process send the employee home and advise them to seek medical attention.

You should let them return to work when they provide a medical certificate confirming that they are fit for work.

The main basis for all actions in this issue should be the health and safety of the employee and their fellow workers.

Read more on stress at work here

Read more on intoxication and drugs in the workplace here

  Equality and Mental Health. What the law means for your workplace.       Download here


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