Bruin seminar: the business case for investing in employee mental health

Held during Mental Health Awareness month, Bruin’s recent event “Taking Care of Business” provided key insights from risk management and legal experts regarding what is expected of employers, what can be done to promote a healthy and productive workforce, how to comply with a duty of care towards employees, and guidelines for ensuring an inclusive recruitment process.

Attended by hiring managers, HR business partners, D&I professionals and talent acquisition specialists from across financial services, the event provided a wide perspective on what organisations can do to pro-actively address business risks, an overview of the consequences of failing to implement appropriate employee support systems, and innovative human capital strategies to support a healthy workplace.

The event opened with a presentation on how to manage work place stress and after an overview of the legal obligations firms have to their employees, the importance of managing employee stress was highlighted from the perspective of 2 key drivers, firstly focusing on the moral duty of care, and secondly the business case.

Employers have a legal duty of care for the health, safety and welfare of their employees and mental health conditions can amount to a legal disability under the 2010 Equality Act if the condition has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability of the person to carry out their normal day-to-day activities. Firms are required to do their utmost to be aware of any disabilities an employee might have, and make reasonable adjustments both to working process and disciplinary procedures. A failure to make adequate provisions may expose the employer to litigation.

From a business perspective, the arguments presented for managing work place stress effectively focused on the positive impact on profitability that a reduction in stress brings. Recent analysis of FTSE 100 annual reports suggest link between mental health and earnings. According to a report by Soma Analytics, Companies which address mental health and wellbeing in their annual reports enjoyed up to THREE times more profit. An open, supportive, and understating workplace culture in turn results in increased productivity and creativity. Trust and morale will increase which leads to improved staff retention, a reduction in absenteeism, decreased staff turnover and an increase in productivity that will ultimately improve the company’s bottom line. On average, research shows that every year it costs businesses £1,300 per employee whose mental health needs are unsupported.

With the importance of managing work place stress having been established, focus shifted to recognising signs of stress in employees, and the start of a conversation around approaches to mitigating them. Physical and psychological symptoms of stress were highlighted, as were common potential causes, such as high workload, lack of flexibility and lack of training. Firms are encouraged to be proactive in recognising mental health issues, using employee surveys to gain a perspective of the mental health of the business as a whole, and training mental health first aiders to recognise the warning signs of ill health in employees. Open discussions around the causes of the symptoms and the implementation of a plan of action afterwards are important, as is management controlling (as best as possible) factors that cause symptoms of mental ill health.

Implementation of mitigation strategies can take many forms, including the direct approach of training staff to be mental health first aiders, the formation of wellbeing groups within the organisation, and defined easy to access policies and procedures that employees can refer to.  Firms should be ensuring that policies around mental health are up to date and reflective of current legislation, are reviewed regularly and reflect your business. There should also be training provided for key staff members, and reasonable adjustments considered for those who may need them. These will enable firms to act fairly and consistently on mental health issues.

Bruin would like to thank our guest speakers Lorna Feeney and Alistair Schuberth, Risk Management professionals at Marsh, and Rachel Thompson, Head of Employment Law at Jelf.

Bruin is a vocal champion for diversity and inclusion, and is delighted to have recently won the Deloitte Diversity & Inclusion Award at the TIARA 2019 awards. In particular Bruin was commended by the judges for “incorporating D&I initiatives into their recruitment process, the broad range of diversity & inclusion initiatives they are involved with, and the high level of visibility in their market”.

To read more about our D&I initiatives, please visit our website.