Employment Law: COVID 19 - Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work | July 2020

Employment Law: COVID 19 - Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work | July 2020

Following on from last month’s Employment Law update, we are staying with the COVID 19 theme and examining the impact this may be having on the mental health and wellbeing of employees. We'll also take a look at some of the factors employers should be looking at as we continue to work our way through this period of uncertainty.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, many employees may have been either furloughed or working from home and have found it difficult to deal with these situations over a prolonged period. They may be working longer/different hours, be under pressure, have childcare responsibilities or find it difficult to cope with minimal social contact and some will have experienced illness, or bereavement. The pandemic has put increased focus on how organisations support the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees and in all these situations employers are required to take as much care for employees as is reasonably practicable - how the employer fulfils this legal duty of care is therefore of paramount importance on both a moral and legal standpoint.

It is particularly important for this group of employees that managers stay in regular contact with them and encourage them to; maintain a positive work/life balance, to have a routine plan, keep active and exercise and to check on their anxieties and concerns and provide appropriate re-assurance and support.

A further concern will be as the lockdown measures begin to lift, employees will be looking to employers to provide re-assurance and guidance at this uncertain time, especially with the government's contact tracing and contact with co-employees.

Providing non-discriminatory advice and reassurance to employees is key to encourage their return to work. Employers need to identify obstacles that may prevent or delay a return or require employees to remain away from the workplace, as well as what reasonable adjustments may be necessary to be put in place for employees. It is crucial that employers treat people with compassion, and that they remind staff of the support and resources that are available to them, such as employee assistance programmes, mental health first-aiders, occupational health and counselling.

To support employers in this area, the government have released the current ‘5 Steps to Working Safely’ that also covers the issues relating to mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
  3. Help people to work from home
  4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
  5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk

There is also a regular government COVID 19 update on the government website and employers are urged to monitor this on a daily basis. In addition, there are links below to several key organisations/resources that will help and support employers when dealing with employees furloughed, working from home, or returning to work.

The key message is that employers need to continually review their non-discriminatory decision-making processes and their support to employees, many of whom will be suffering from stress and anxiety during the COVID 19 pandemic.

If you have any HR issues and would like to talk them through with our team, please do not hesitate to contact us – keep well and stay safe.

Helpful links/resources:

Gov.UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/5-steps-to-working-safely

MIND: https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/coronavirus-and-work/tips-for-supporting-yourself-and-your-team/

CIPD: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/employees/workplace-guide-returning-after-coronavirus

ACAS: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health

Equality and Human Rights Commission: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-employers-reasonable-adjustments-employees

*Accurate as at 28th June 2020

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