If you’ve been on social media or listened to the news, you may have heard the phrase ‘Blue Monday’, which took place yesterday.
It was developed by a PR agency in 2005, who claimed it had developed a formula (with no scientific research) which identified the most depressing day of the year – the third Monday of January. The formula takes several factors into consideration, such as the weather, debt left over from Christmas, lack of motivation and failed New Year’s resolutions, to name a few.
However, multiple mental health charities such as Mind and the Samaritans have said the idea of ‘Blue Monday’, which has been acknowledged annually since 2005, is “dangerously misleading, as depression cannot be dictated by the date”. Furthermore, it may also give the impression that ‘feeling a little bit down’ is something that does not need to be taken seriously.
It may surprise you to hear that anxiety, depression and stress are now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and an estimated 70 million working days are lost every year because of mental health. This makes mental wellbeing a central concern for all workers and their employers.
What are your obligations, as an Employer?
Employers have a legal responsibility for health and safety of their employees’ and for some workers, mental health issues are so severe that they may be classed as being “disabled” under the Equality Act 2010. It is therefore important that employers are aware of their responsibilities under the law.
Of course, not every employee who is stressed at work will be suffering from a disability but it is important employers bear in mind that the term “stress” is commonly used to describe a broad spectrum of problems including depression which could be a disability.
What to do next
Where problems persist with absentee and/or underperforming employees, it is recommended that you obtain a medical report from either their GP or occupational health. The medical professional will then be able to assess the employee’s condition and in particular, whether they suffer from a disability which is necessary to assess the effectiveness and scope of any possible or proposed reasonable adjustments. As always, where an employee suffers from a disability, employers need to proceed with caution when faced with the employee’s on going sickness absence due to stress, particularly in the face of disciplinary or absence management proceedings.
Of course, employers need to be allowed to run their businesses and apply formal procedures, but to do so without understanding an employee’s particular personal and medical situation will rarely result in a good outcome and could expose that employer to various claims.
An independent review on how employers can better support the mental health of employees was recently published in October last year – the “Stevenson/Farmer review, Thriving at Work”. This contained various recommendations that employers should follow, including developing mental health awareness amongst employees, providing employees with good working conditions, promoting effective people management and routinely monitoring employees’ mental health and wellbeing. For any business, this is a well advised read.Find out more about our Employment department