Supporting an unwell employee
Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for a member of staff who has disclosed that they have a longstanding mental health problem or other disability. The Equality Act provides disabled employees with appropriate protection by requiring employers to take appropriate action. The Act defines disability as “someone who has a healthcare condition that has lasted for a year or more and interferes with day to day ”. Typically, when it comes to mental health problems, reasonable adjustments are small, inexpensive changes, such as more regular catch-ups with managers to help manage workload, change of workspace, working hours, or breaks. Even if someone is not disabled in accordance with the definition within the Equality Act, making reasonable adjustments makes good sense and is what any good employer would do.
- Schedule one-on-one time with the employee on a regular basis. This time can be used to discuss work performance and to enquire about their wellbeing. People who are unwell often feel more supported to be open about their illness as long as they feel that they will not be stigmatised or treated unfairly
- If you cannot make any reasonable adjustments which would help, encourage the individual to seek professional advice and – if needed – to use their sick leave entitlement in order to help them regain a good state of mental health. Most employees do better if they can continue to do some work whilst they access treatment, rather than being at home on sick leave doing nothing
- Reallocate workload where possible. For example; Could you spread tasks throughout the team to allow the person to work flexible hours or take time off for any appointments? Could you relieve them from particularly stressful tasks such as out-of-hours work or busy evening surgeries?
- Providing a quiet, private and secure place for a person to take any medication or to be alone if they need to can be very helpful
- With the employee’s express permission, you may request medical reports or advice from their medical team. If you have access to occupational health, then you should ask for their advice for health-related difficulties which appear to offer no easy solution
- Consider restriction of unsupervised access to dangerous drugs at times of high risk; this will minimise the opportunity for an individual to appropriate them for self-administration