Employers must remember duty of care during outbreak

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, businesses must ensure that they’re providing suitable mental health support for employees and fulfilling their duty of care to workers, says workplace stress and mental health organisation, Mente.

The current situation with coronavirus is clearly unprecedented and is causing worry for many businesses, employees, and individuals, says Mel Joseph, founder and managing director of Mente.

Mel commented, “This is a challenging time for everyone and every business in the country. But businesses need to recognise that the potential impact on employee mental health could be severe and long-lasting if wellbeing is ignored. Businesses have a legal obligation to protect employees from harm, and this can include harm to their mental health as a result of excessive work-related stress.”

She added that it’s important to remember that your duty of care extends to employees who are now working from home. Mel said, “It’s important to take the health of remote workers seriously. Businesses with five or more employees are required to do a risk assessment for stress, and you should now be covering remote workers in this stress risk assessment.”

The latest research from YouGov, conducted on 30th March, shows that 48% of workers are now working from home at an increased level. 46% of workers also report that they are now working from home all of the time.

Mel suggested, “Good communication is more important than ever, so encourage regular conversations between managers and colleagues. Also try to ensure that the business cascades information in a timely manner to avoid worries and office gossip about job security from escalating. Reassure employees that you take their mental health seriously and will support them however possible.

“Now is also the time to be reminding employees about the support that is available to them. If you have any healthcare provisions that they can use, like an employee assistance programme, let them know how to access it.”

By taking the right steps, businesses can mitigate the risk of poor mental health on employees. It can also be good for the business, as employee wellbeing translates into increases in employee and customer loyalty, and improvements in productivity.

Mente help businesses to manage stress and mental health through their digital platform, which houses CPD accredited mental health training, business diagnostic and performance tools, and direct access to further support. They have recently launched a new free stress risk assessment tool, specifically for organisations with employees who are working from home.