Unlocking the Lockdown: Mental Health in the workplace

June 15, 2020

On the 10th of May Boris Johnson made his announcement regarding a return to the workplace for many employees, especially those for whom working from home was not a real option.

His ‘encouragement’ was seen as one of the first tentative steps towards employment normality, but it has certainly heralded a period of deep thought and planning for employers getting ready to welcome staff back.

There are many areas which employers must consider at this most unorthodox of times and the coming weeks will be a test of policies and procedures. Those responsible for employees must ensure that they do everything they can to meet their duty of care, including: -

Managing the return – ensuring transparency and fairness when deciding who can safely return, when they can do this, and how it will affect them – e.g. with their on-going childcare needs or their ability to claim under the furlough or Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Risk assessment – as well as general responsibilities towards the Health & Safety of employees, there will be many additional steps required to minimise risk from COVID-19 which need to be addressed, shared with employees and their representatives and regularly updated in line with Public Health England’s advice.

Contractual details – with significant changes to the working environment, contractual terms may no longer be appropriate and may need revision for protection of employer and employee (including capturing of procedural changes which arise from the risk assessment and how they are to be implemented and enforced).

Whilst consideration of these more practical measures will minimise the overall level of disruption through the initial period of return and will ensure that all parties know exactly what to expect and how they are likely to be affected, the most significant area which will have to be addressed by employers is the Mental Health of those within their care.

Many employees will have been adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown. Some may be grieving, others might have found their domestic situation challenging (including new responsibilities such as home schooling). There is no doubt that feelings of increased stress and anxiety will be common, and depression may be triggered in those finding it hard to adjust.

Employers must make a strong provision for the mental health of employee; one which is sufficient to handle current challenges and others which may arise in coming months. This of course means adhering strictly to Equality Law so that no-one is disadvantaged in the new-look workplace, but it also means the close monitoring of staff to protect their future wellbeing. The plan may involve regular ‘check-ins’ (including on-line contact for those still working at home) or an increase in training for key personnel to spot any signs of issues and allow early intervention and tailored support.

At CoLaw we help our clients to look after those who fall within their duty of care and now, more than ever, we will be assisting companies to navigate their way through areas of employee well-being which they have previously never encountered.

If you would like to discuss your own specific needs or gather some useful tips to manage the lockdown unlocking of your staff members then simply visit https://www.colaw.co.uk/ or get in touch with the team today.

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