Whilst mental health awareness has taken impressive strides in recent times, there is still much to be done to improve the mental wellbeing of employees in the workplace. Recently published statistics have shown that the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in the workplace is poor mental wellbeing, and that one in ten employees in the UK rates their current mental wellbeing as poor or very poor.

The impact of an ineffective approach to mental wellbeing in the workplace can be significant. A depleted and unmotivated workforce has been shown to notably increase costs and reduce long-term performance outcomes.

In addition, this increases the risk of a business being faced with an unfair dismissal claim. An example of this can be seen with the publicised dispute between AA Insurance and its former chairman and CEO, Bob Mackenzie. Mr Mackenzie was dismissed without notice after fighting a colleague at a social event. Mr Mackenzie has since launched an unfair dismissal claim totalling £225m against AA Insurance, alleging that his behaviour was a consequence of his poor mental health caused by months of overwork and belittling from his employer.

The legal profession itself is not immune to the impact of poor mental wellbeing in the workplace. On 14 October 2018, Gabe MacConaill, a partner at Sidley Austin, took his own life. His widow, Joanna Litt, has since revealed that the cause of his suicide was due to his underlying mental health disorder which was aggravated by his high-pressured job in a culture where he felt it was shameful to ask for help.

The above tells us why it is fundamental for law firms and businesses alike to promote a culture where mental wellbeing is taken seriously. The following are some simple steps which can be taken by any business to achieve this:

1) Induction programme: an effective induction programme can be useful for encouraging a positive first few days in the job for new or promoted employees. Providing clear guidance on internal processes and expectations can boost these individuals confidence and prevent the triggering of problems or existing symptoms.

2) Active monitoring: monitoring employees through regular catch-ups or supervision meetings will allow line managers to be well placed to spot signs of stress or poor mental health at an early stage. These meetings also give employees opportunities to begin conversations and disclose information on their mental wellbeing in a confidential and safe environment.

3) Action plans: where an employee has disclosed information on their mental health, it may be helpful to develop an individual wellness action plan. This plan should be tailored and specifically detail the support the individual requires and the measures to be implemented.

In 2019, Lewis Silkin LLP launched our #ThisPlaceMinds campaign, focusing on mental wellbeing in the workplace. As part of this campaign, we invite our clients to a series of roundtables events to discuss the industry-specific issues they face, and the various ways these issues have been resolved. By actively participating in these events, you can take the knowledge gained back to your own organisations to promote employee wellbeing in your workplace. If you are interested, please contact us for more information on our upcoming events.

For further information on our #ThisPlaceMinds campaign, please visit www.lewissilkin.com/en/campaigns/this-place-minds.
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group (koichiro.nakada@lewissilkin.com) and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (yoko.nakada@lewissilkin.com).
The information and any commentary on the law contained in this bulletin is provided free of charge for information purposes only. No responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Lewis Silkin LLP or Centre People Appointments. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and is not intended to be relied upon. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter and not rely on the information or comments in this bulletin.

This information is supplied by Lewis Silkin LLP www.lewissilkin.comm

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