By Jane Wheeler, Partner, Hine Legal
“There is growing recognition, of the importance of individual wellbeing, inside and outside the workplace. In working to get the very best out of their organisation, many managers are choosing to adopt practices to increase the wellbeing of their staff.” [ACAS]
Tackling ill-health can problematic and in order to avoid claims, there are many commercial reasons why companies should address the issue of creating and maintaining a wellbeing focus in the workplace to manage the health of their workforce.
- A recent study (GOV.UK – Review of evidence on employee wellbeing and its potential impact on workplace performance) suggests improvement in wellbeing will result in improved workplace performance: in profitability (financial performance), labour productivity and the quality of outputs or services (source: ACAS)
- Work-related mental ill health costs the UK economy up to £26billion every year through lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity.
- FTSE100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE by 10%.
- Overall, two-thirds of organisations have introduced changes to some aspect of their approach in the last year. Developing line manager capability to manage absence was the most common change made. The most common methods used to reduce stress are staff satisfaction surveys; flexible working options; improved work-life balance; risk assessments and identifying employee stress [CIPD] “Absence Management 2015”
- Over a third of organisations report their well-being spend has increased this year in comparison with the last financial year [CIPD]
WHAT STEPS CAN EMPLOYERS TAKE TO IMPROVE WORKPLACE WELLBEING?
- Train Managers to manage staff health issues, to look out for signs of stress and to promote wellbeing. Hine Legal provide training.
- Review and monitor staff to ensure work levels are reasonable and to intervene if not.
- Promote improved health: at work and home – this could be through facilitating exercise and advice on diet.
- Provide a conduit for staff to seek advice and support.
The above steps and enhanced motivation and improved performance are more likely to lead to increased happiness, less staff turnover and career progression.
WHAT STEPS CAN INDIVIDUALS TAKE TO IMPROVE THEIR PERSONAL WORKPLACE WELLBEING
Workload remains the most common cause of stress, followed by non-work relationships/family, management style and relationships at work. If you have an issue then talk to your manager
Work/life balance – Efficient working during the day – prioritise, focus on tasks one at a time, delegate and ensure that you take breaks during the day. Make sure you can switch off when you leave work.
- Avoid ‘presenteeism’ – A third of organisations report an increase in people coming to work ill in the last 12 months. ‘Presenteeism’ is more likely to have increased where long working hours are seen to be the norm and where operational demands take precedence over employee well-being. Those organisations who have noticed an increase in presenteeism are nearly twice as likely to report an increase in stress-related absence and more than twice as likely to report an increase in mental health problems.
- Flexible working – you can discuss this with your manager as anyone has the right to request this at 26 weeks.
- Open up lines of communication – seek clarity on responsibilities and employer’s expectations.
- Regular short breaks; use company facilities; skills learning, coaching
- Cultivate positive working relationships: speak to a colleague it there’s no HR or if uneasy about disclosing health issues to HR/employer. The CIPD’s “Employee Outlook: Focus on mental health in the workplace” found that almost a third of UK employees had experienced unmanageable stress or mental health issues in employment, but only 41% felt confident disclosing this to their employer.
THE LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR EMPLOYERS
- Handle work place issues consistently and fairly.
- Disability: Is the individual suffering from a disability under the Equality Act 2010? If so, the duty is on employer to make reasonable adjustments e.g. orthopaedic chair, time off for appointments, and flexible working.
- Equal Pay legislation – the right to equal pay for like work.
- Consider alternatives when managing ill health rather than warnings and dismissal.
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1984 – employers have a duty of care: to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees; to assess risks arising from hazards at work and work-related mental health problems.
- Implied duty of trust and confidence, to keep employee safe at work, and to provide a suitable working environment.
- If an employee is struggling take action to avoid potential personal injury.
Author: Jane Wheeler, Partner at Hine Legal, specialist solicitors in employment law.
You can meet the Hine Legal team at The London Wellbeing at Work event on 19 October 2016.