As we experience the first-ever Blue Monday in lockdown, employers must ensure a dialogue is established with employees if there are fears over mental health, says a legal expert.
The third Monday in January, colloquially known as ‘Blue Monday’, is supposedly the most depressing day of the year, and comes with added pressures in 2021 due to intensified mental health concerns amidst the lockdown period.
According to statistics from a recent survey of over 700 UK residents, carried out by Birmingham Law Society, more than 80% of respondents agree that mental health is more of an issue since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Despite changes to work, the advice to employers is to carry out a risk assessment and ensure they fulfil their responsibility for employee welfare. According to Section 2 from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, “it shall be the duty of all employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health safety and welfare of all their employees whilst they are at work.”
James Leo, Head of Employment Law at The Wilkes Partnership LLP, and member of the Birmingham Law Society, commented “The pandemic has altered the working world considerably, with significantly more people working from home and keyworkers facing growing pressure to continue going to work. With that in mind, it is even more important that employers carry out risk assessments and uphold their responsibility for employee welfare.”
Around 66% of those that completed Birmingham Law Society’s survey were either unsure or not confident about whether they feel their employer manages mental health in the workplace appropriately.
James continued “It is important that employees feel supported by their employer. This should come as a company-wide initiative, led from the top and not just a HR responsibility. Establishing dialogue is strongly advised because mental health is often an ‘invisible’ threat and employers may not be completely aware of the severity and extent of it across their workforce.
“There are additional pressures on those who are unable to work from home, as per the Government’s guidance. Those who are still required to attend their workplace face potential stresses over Covid-19 exposure risk. Employers are encouraged to start a conversation to initiate any assistance required,” James explained.
“Equally, those that remain at home face challenges in respect to isolation and working limitations. Working from home presents unique challenges including juggling home schooling, which both employers and employees have not encountered before the pandemic. With employees working in an environment that employers don’t have access too, and more importantly cannot enter due to Covid-19 restrictions, navigating the barriers of mental health has become even more challenging. Employers have a responsibility to ensure employees working from home are set up to do so. Keeping in regular contact will assist all involved to navigate the new challenges for managing their workforce working remotely.”