What are employers’ legal responsibilities for mental health at work

Written by Louise Fernand
Sep 20, 2023

Louise is the Product Manager for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Red Cross Training responsible for the development of Mental Health at Work training products.

Louise Fernand, product manager for mental health and wellbeing at Red Cross Training looks at the different elements of the legal responsibilities of an employer for mental health awareness in the workplace.


How important is mental health in the workplace?

Creating a mentally healthy and productive workplace requires a holistic approach. Mental health training helps individuals practice self-care, manage stress, and maintain wellbeing.

Companies routinely consider first aid to protect the physical wellbeing of their staff, but mental health is rarely given the same thought. Offering this type of training reduces burnout, boosts productivity, and improves overall health.

By taking a positive approach to mental health awareness in the workplace, your organisation can benefit from:​

  • More engaged and motivated staff​.
  • Reduction in absence and associated costs​.
  • Increased productivity and staff retention​.
  • Improved professional reputation​.
  • More satisfied customers.


What are employers’ legal responsibilities for mental health at work?

The law requires employers to tackle work-related stress. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) references the six ‘Core Standards’ for managing mental health at work. The core standards have been designed to help employers improve the mental health of their workplace and enable individuals with mental health conditions to thrive. Our mental health at work Mental Health at Work courses are directly relevant to and reflect these recommended standards.


To meet your legal responsibilities, you need to learn how to discuss mental health with your employees

Take the first step to creating a supportive culture by downloading our free guide - 'Talking to employees about their mental health'.

Download now


How can employers support mental health?

Employers have a mental health duty of care to protect workers from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. When it comes to mental health at work, employers have a number of legal responsibilities which include:

  • Creating a safe and healthy work environment.
  • Preventing discrimination and harassment.
  • Accommodating employee’s mental health conditions and compliance with disability laws and regulations.
  • Promoting mental health and wellbeing. 


Creating a safe and healthy work environment

Three colleagues having a positive discussion

Hybrid working is now the norm and so it’s never been so important to ensure that the working environment is as health as possible, both at home and at work. You should consider the following:

  • By creating an open environment in the workplace, employees will feel more comfortable in discussing their mental health. 
  • Supporting your team both inside and outside of work.
  • Encourage your team to build their resilience to emotionally challenging situations.
  • Build relationships with external organisations to develop mental health plans. 
  • Promoting positive job roles and working environments. 
  • Policy development and implementation.
  • Practically addressing the relevant risk factors relating to work-related stress.


Preventing discrimination and harassment

As an employer, you are legally obliged to not directly or indirectly discriminate employees less favourably based on their mental health. This can include unfavourable treatment and exclusion from opportunities. This applies to hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, or any other aspect of employment.


Accommodating employee’s mental health conditions and compliance with disability laws and regulations 

All workers including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments to be made, to ensure that their mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs. 


Promoting mental health and wellbeing

In order to make a positive, lasting change in your workplace, it’s worth considering the investment into organisational mental health training and mental health awareness in the workplace. Access to mental health training helps improve leadership understanding, enables employees to build essential resilience skills, and builds the foundation for a more open and supportive workplace.

The British Red Cross offers six short, interactive Mental Health at Work courses which are designed to build both team and individual resilience and to help staff members return to and maintain a state of positive mental wellbeing.

By learning with us, you’ll benefit from the expertise of our teams in supporting people in emotionally challenging situations.  The course content is based on the globally recognised CALMER psychosocial framework. The framework has been developed by the Red Cross’ psychosocial team and aims to support individuals during and after an emotionally challenging situation.


To create a positive change in the workplace, you need to be able to have constructive discussions about mental health

Start your journey by downloading our free guide - 'Talking to employees about their mental health'.

Download now


Confidentiality and privacy

It’s important to create an open environment at work, not everyone will be open to discussing their mental health at work. More than half of UK employees feel uncomfortable disclosing mental health or psychological conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, or depression, in the workplace. The Data Protection Act 2018 requires employers to store personal information about their employees confidentially. In rare situations this confidentiality may need to be broken if an employer feels that a person is at risk to themselves or others. The organisation may have a policy in place which features the sharing of information with medical professionals. 

By developing a clear picture of the mental health of your organisation, you’ll be able to: 

  • Understand the factors that affect staff mental wellbeing in your workplace.
  • Identify what you’re already doing to support it. 
  • Assess the impact your current approach is having.
  • Plan further improvements, enhance morale and increase productivity.

Take the first step in building a more supportive, open workplace with our free download: Talking to employees about their mental health: your guide to starting the conversation.


How can managers support employees’ mental health?

a manager and employee having a positive discussion

Leader, managers, and supervisors may encounter people in challenging mental health situations at work, and it’s important that they have the knowledge and tools needed to recognise the signs of mental health problems along with supporting individuals and leading a resilient team. Our Mental Health Awareness for Managers course includes discussions on stress and helps to develop strategies for building supportive relationships and implementing stress management policies. It emphasises the benefits of trust, effective teamwork, conflict resolution, and a supportive work environment.

With less than half of people feeling that they have the right tools to support their mental health at work, having access to the right support and training has never been so important. Your team can benefit from:

  • developing awareness of how to support themselves and others when faced with difficult situations using a practical framework
  • managing stress and developing awareness of stress
  • optimising wellbeing at work and in personal life
  • developing greater confidence when dealing with difficult situations.

If you're unsure how to implement a mental health at work strategy, our blog about supporting mental health in the workplace outlines some of the considerations and looks at the aspects your plan could include.  


How to support mental health at work

While mental health problems are common, most are mild, tend to be short-term and are normally successfully treated, whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a duty of care to help their employees.

Mental health training can help employees become more aware of what can help or harm the wellbeing of themselves and others, whether this is at work or in the home.

But with never ending to-do lists it’s easy to put mental health training to the bottom. But it’s important to remember that it empowers individuals with the knowledge and skills to nurture their wellbeing, enhance resilience, and cultivate healthier relationships, leading to a happier team. Don’t delay and book a Mental Health at Work course today.

Learn more

Learn about our Mental Health courses

At British Red Cross Training, we offer six short, interactive mental health at work courses designed to build team and individual resilience. To find out more, browse our courses.

Learn more
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Topics: Mental Health at Work, Mental Health Awareness, Mental Health

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