FRIDAY FAQS – Can an employer ask about my mental health when applying for a new job?

Thanks to awareness days like Wednesday’s World Mental Health Day, the conversation surrounding mental health is getting louder. The stigma attached to talking about our mental health in the same way that we do for our physical health is being lifted and with that there is a growing acceptance that it’s okay not to be okay and to seek support.

The workplace is undeniably an environment that for many people can cause stress and anxiety. If you have a mental health issue then being in a pressured working environment, that may not be supportive of your mental health, can cause further damage to your health and overall well-being.

It’s therefore the role of employers to ensure they have fair practices in place with regards to their approach for identifying and supporting their teams with mental health issues, just as they do for physical health.

As an employee you should expect to be supported by your employer and provided with the necessary support for a mental health issue.

However, is it a concern for those seeking new employment that if they have an existing mental health issue, it may impact upon their likelihood of getting a job?

We want to help debunk some of these crucial questions and shed light on an area of HR that is vital for a happy and productive workplace.

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1. Can I be asked about my mental health issue when I apply for a job? 

In short, no. It’s unlawful for an employer to ask a candidate if they have a history mental health issues during the application process.

If you are asked about your mental health, you are not obliged to answer this, however, if you do choose to disclose this information it is recommended that you do so honestly.

Asking candidates health questions before a job offer is made is unlawful and can be reported to the Equality Advice and Support Service.

If you are asked about your mental health during the application process and then don’t receive an offer, you may want to challenge this as it can be classed as discrimination on the grounds of disability.

2. Are there situations when an employer can ask about my mental health before making a job offer?

There are a few situations when an employer may need to ask about your health before a job offer is made, these can include:

  • To find out if you can take an assessment for a job.
  • To find out if you need reasonable adjustments to the application process.
  • To find out whether you will be able to do the requirements of the job, whilst they also consider any reasonable adjustments that may need to be made.
  • To find out if applications are coming from a diverse group of people.
  • To establish if you have the particular disability required for the job.
  • To assess you for national security purposes.

For example, a lawful question about your health and whether this affects your ability to do the job would be; if you were applying for a job erecting scaffolding and the employer asked questions at the application stage regarding disability, health and whether the applicant has a fear of heights.

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3. What questions can I be asked about my mental health once I’ve been offered a job?

Once you receive a job offer then your new employer is lawfully able to ask you questions about your health.

If your new employer asks questions about your mental health and subsequently becomes concerned due to a mental health issue you may not be able to carry out your job, then it is the employer’s responsibility to seek further advice from your doctor or occupational health.

Should your new employer ask a question about your mental health and then withdraw the job offer without first consulting advice or conducting a further assessment or investigation, then this may be seen direct discrimination and therefore unlawful.

Mental Health is a really important HR issue in the workplace and If you need any help or advice on how to approach it, get in touch:+44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

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World Mental Health Day 10th Oct 2018

Today is World Mental Health Day, aimed at raising awareness and educating people on a subject that has been too stigmatised for too long.  It’s an opportunity for us all to reflect on our own mental health and wellbeing and those around us. Unfortunately, mental ill health isn’t something that affects people for just one day a year, for some it really is something that affects them long term.

When we talk about Mental Health, what do we mean? Well in short it’s our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing – fundamentally the part of us that affects how we think, feel and act in certain situations. It determines how we handle stress, the choices we make and more importantly how we relate to others.

Mental illness can range from feeling a little down to debilitating anxiety and less commonly the severe conditions bi-polar or schizophrenia, but even feeling down can affect us and the people around us.  Most people will feel some level of stress or anxiety as our daily life throws different pressures and expectations at us, so never assume someone is always happy and never struggles with mental ill health as this will rarely be true.

The statistics show that 1 in 4 will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives and it is now a real issue that needs to be addressed and not swept under the carpet. Luckily awareness is on the increase and some big charities and household names are at the forefront of ensuring that we are all able to talk about our issues openly and promoting positive mental health.

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There are steps we can all put in place from employers and business owner to colleagues and peers to promote positive mental wellbeing in the workplace.  Below are just a few things that should be in place and we would encourage all employers and their employees to get involved, not just to help promote positive mental health in the workplace, but support those already suffering with mental ill health.

Employers

1. Take time to understand the impact to your business.

2. Ensure your managers are informed and aware, include training if necessary, but most importantly ensure they are open to having conversations with their employees.

3. Openly show that you are committed to positive mental health.

4. Deal with the issues that could be causing your workforce stress and anxiety.

5. Reduce negativity, tell people it’s ok to talk and reinforce that they won’t be punished as a result.

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Managers

1. Ensure you know how to handle a potentially difficult conversation effectively and don’t be afraid to ask for help if not.

2. Promote a positive work-life balance in your teams, and yourself too!

3. Don’t think you’re the expert because you’re a manager, really understand mental health and the issues associated with it.

4. Build a good relationship with your team – this is probably the most important; your employees need to feel like they can come to you.

Employees

1. What causes you anxiety? Do you really know what your stress triggers are? Think about it, and how you manage it in the workplace, or at home.

2. Look after your wellbeing, do things that you know make you feel positive and happy.

3. Take notice of your peers and support them.

4. Lastly but most importantly talk! Don’t keep things to yourself, if you are struggling let your manager know and then you can work together.

FACT: Stress is the major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.

Let’s work together to change this and stop people suffering in silence.

If you need any help or advice on how to approach Mental Health in your workplace, get in touch:+44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

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Does your company suffer from ‘Leavism’?

Ok, so what does ‘leavism’ actually mean?

It’s the latest term for defining employees who end up working, during non-paid work hours, annual leave or whilst off sick. According to new research from CIPD, 69% of employees have said that ‘leavism’ has happened in their workplace in the past year.

Unfortunately, it is an increasing issue for all types of companies and needs to be taken very seriously.  If you don’t combat low morale and increased stress levels among your employees eventually it will affect your productivity.

Below we’ve outlined a few red flags you should look out for:

Employees working out of hours

Answering urgent calls and messages is one thing. But if an employee is consistently working late at night or very early in the morning in order to finish work they couldn’t get done during working hours it clearly needs to be addressed.

Employees constantly checking emails

We can’t escape it, the world is connected these days, however, your employees may feel pressure to be available at all times, even while they’re away from work. They may think you expect them to read and answer emails 24/7, and see it as a sign of their commitment to your business.

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Employees too scared to book holidays

Research shows that 23% of UK workers struggle to book time off or take allocated annual leave because they are too anxious to leave their work in a fellow colleagues hands.

As an employer – what can you do?

If you start to see a trend in your business of your employees regularly working beyond their contracted hours and spending their annual leaving completing jobs, then you should strongly consider redistributing their workloads or hiring extra employees.

You should also make sure you aren’t promoting a culture of fear, where your employees are scared of what will happen if they don’t finish their work.

If you ignore these signs, you may think in the short term, you’re saving money because employees are completing work without getting paid for it! but at some point down the line you’ll need to weigh this against the cost of employee burnout, mental health issues and retention.

If you need any advice on any HR issue, big or small, then please get in touch: +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

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5 things employers should do to support employee wellbeing

Wellbeing is climbing up the corporate agenda and more businesses are implementing measures that encourage employees to bring their best selves to work.

There are plenty of benefits that companies can use to prioritize health, however, when it comes to mental health, it’s a different story.

According to research from CV-Library over three quarters (77.8%) of UK workers agree that not enough is being done to support mental health at work. In fact, almost half (46.1%) have considered resigning from a job due to lack of support. The survey of 1,100 UK workers, also found that 42.9% said that aspects of their job can cause them to feel anxious or depressed. Worse still, they have no one to turn to. 60.2% of Brits confessed that they would be too embarrassed to disclose information about the state of their mental health to their employer.

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Yet, with 15% of people at work having symptoms of a mental health condition, the stigma around opening a dialogue about mental health is making the matter worse.

A Government review in association with Mind, found that around 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year.

From this survey it’s sad to learn that workers aren’t feeling supported by their employers when it comes to their mental health and it’s clear more needs to be done to tackle this. Also with almost half respondents confessing that they’ve thought about quitting a job due to lack of support, employers need to know how to address these issues.

So how can employers help? 83.6% of professionals believe that employers should offer mental health days for employees, with 78% agreeing that they’d be more likely to work for a company that did.

The majority 88.4% also said that they believe that employers should be given training to help them understand mental health and how to help employees who may be suffering.

Honesty and communication jointly contribute towards a great company culture and the wellbeing of employees needs to play a part in this. Employers need to create an environment where employees feel they can approach their boss if they’re struggling or take some time out when they need to recharge their batteries.

The respondents also listed the top 5 things their bosses can do for them to prevent poor mental health below:

  1. Promote a healthy work-life balance
  2. Create an environment where mental health is not stigmatised
  3. Refer employees to a counselling service
  4. Talk more openly about mental health
  5. Have an internal counselling service for employees

Food for thought indeed.

Do you have any issues surrounding employee wellbeing? why not give HR Revolution a call and see how we could help: +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

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A version of this article first appeared on HR Grapevine

Time to talk day… #timetotalk

Today is Time to talk day, a charity run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health.

What many people don’t realise is that Mental Health falls under the category of disability and if people who have mental health problems are treated unfavourably because of their condition this is discrimination and, if you experience it, you may have a legal right to challenge it.

So mental health is an issue your business can no longer afford to ignore:

  • Almost one in three people have experienced mental health issues whilst in employment
  • Mental ill-health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year
  • 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason

Tackling stigma (where an employee is perceived as being different because of their mental health problem) and discrimination and developing a culture where your employees feel able to talk openly about their mental health problems should be the number one priority within your business.

It is important as an employer you are aware of your obligations to your employees to protect them from discrimination.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is the law that gives employees the right to challenge discrimination. It protects people from being discriminated against because of certain protected characteristics, such as gender, age or disability and mental health.

Since the Equality Act 2010 came into force, it is unlawful for employers to ask questions about health during recruitment.

It is up to the candidate whether they wish to disclose their mental health problem or not. An employer has a duty to ensure that if the candidate does disclose, they are not discriminated against and are treated fairly.

CIPD make some recommendations for employers:

  • Distinguish carefully between essential and desirable requirements for the job to allow for flexibility in making adjustments.
  • Communicate your commitment to equal opportunities and how your organisation values staff mental health.
  • State that reasonable adjustments are available
  • Any information on health or disabilities should be kept separate from the job application form

Reasonable Adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 also puts employers under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments (in other words changes).

A few examples of changes that might help

  • Extending flexible working policies to allow commuting outside of rush hours
  • Allowing staff to take time off work for appointments
  • Making changes to their working area
  • Allowing staff to work at home on occasion if this is helpful
  • Temporarily re-allocating tasks they find stressful and difficult

As an employer you have a key role to play in supporting employees to maintain their mental wellbeing. Regular supervision or catch-up meetings can help managers recognise symptoms such as stress, anxiety, paranoia or depression. It is also worth incorporating time in your meetings to discuss your employees’ wellbeing. Managers play a crucial role in setting reasonable adjustments, flexible working allowances and return to work plans if employees need additional support.

Ideally, speaking about mental health problems should be an intrinsic part of the culture of your workplace.

It’s critical that all of your line managers feel confident having a conversation about mental health with their line reports. Increasing their capability to spot signs and symptoms in their team, and feel confident in discussing this with those who are struggling will help stop problems before they become more challenging.

If you need any further advice or guidance or would like to discuss how you can tackle any Mental Health issues within your business from an HR perspective give us a call +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

It’s time to talk and HR Revolution are here to support you, your employees AND your business.

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Can stress ever help an employee perform better?

As we all know stress, in all its forms, can be life changing. In the workplace, multiple measures are taken by HR professionals to attempt to eradicate, or least cut down, on factors which encourage employee stress. And for good reason.

A recent report from workforce consulting firm, Life Meets Work found that stress from leaders causes ripples throughout their company – negatively impacting on everything from employee engagement to the bottom line.

“Companies often focus on fixing individual employees to help them be less stressed and therefore more engaged. Yet, our study found that employee engagement was better predicted by the leader’s ability to manage stress than the employee’s current stress level,” explained Kenneth Matos, psychologist and Vice President of Research for Life Meets Work. “A leader’s inability to manage stress ripples through the entire company in a negative way.”

Does this then suggest that all stress is negative stress?

A report from the University of California found that short periods of stress can actually help stimulate cell growth, which in turn results in new brain cells.  After monitoring rats, which were placed in stressful situations, researchers found that a few weeks later their alertness, learning and memory had improved.

However, this doesn’t mean HR will be promoting stress in the office – rather monitoring how stress affects different employees in different ways. A study from Leadership IQ, titled ‘Does Your Job Require High or Low Emotional Intelligence?’, found that just over half (51%) of employees admit that they always or frequently have to ‘act’ or ‘put on a show’ with their emotions at work. This in turn can lead to anxiety, or at the very least dismay.

As for dealing with workplace stress, Dr Christian Jessen, Doctor and TV Presenter of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, revealed how the pressure of presenteeism is affecting our mental health as well as our work-life balance.

“The fact that we don’t really know how to do nothing is something I find rather sad,” he says. “We always feel like we should be doing something – we feel guilty about sitting and watching television; we feel guilty about reading a book for an hour; we think that we need to be emptying the dishwasher or putting another wash on.

“But, we need to get over that guilt if we want to fully encompass all arms of our health. Eastern medicine has been doing this for a long time, whilst in the West, we’ve been ignoring it – and look who is suffering more.”

What do you think? is all stress is negative? or does it have a part to play in a productive work environment, let HR Revolution know your thoughts and comment below.

If you need any further advice on managing stress in the workplace please get in touch, call +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

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A version of this article first appeared in HR Grapevine

Blue Monday may not be real, but Mental Health issues in your business will be

Ok so if you’re reading this, then you made it through the most depressing day of the year. ‘Blue Monday’ the time when the festivities are well and truly over, we’re back into our daily routine and there feels like there’s not a great deal to look forward to.

It’s also right in the middle of a period when employee absences are likely to be high and this is a challenge that a lot of businesses HR Revolution work with face every year. January is a long month and employees may not be able to face coming into work especially when you add financial woes into the mix. 

Mental health issues often create a pattern of short-term sickness absence, and sufferers often find it easier to face disciplinary action for faking a sickie than to admit they have a mental health issue because of the stigma attached.  Not only does being in trouble make them feel even worse, it also prevents them from getting the support they could get if their managers were aware of the problem.

Whatever your views, mental health isn’t something that can be solely tackled from the top down. Business owners and line managers need to take responsibility and recognise that they play a role in the well-being of their employees.

So whilst you breathe a sigh of relief that the most depressing day of the year is now behind us, it might not be time to look forward to the summer months just yet. Take the time to think about how you can ensure that your employees are happy, productive, and enjoying good mental health.

It has business benefits sure… But it’s also simply the right thing to do.

If you need any further advice or want to chat confidentially about an employee that might need assistance get in touch, call +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

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How to have a better “Blue Monday”…

How is your Monday going?  It is the start of a new week, probably lots to do, reading and actioning emails and maybe planning ahead for yourself and your team members.

But did you know that today is “Blue Monday”, why is it you may ask; Blue Monday is calculated using a series of factors in a (not particularly scientific) mathematical formula. The factors are: the weather, debt level (specifically, the difference between debt and our ability to pay), the amount of time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take charge of the situation.

However, not all psychologists agree with this description:

“The reality is there’s no such thing as the most depressing day of the year and it trivialises serious mental health issues” says Dr. Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare.  “Mental Health and Mental illness is an ongoing matter and achieving a good work-life balance is important to being a healthier you”.

The emphasis shouldn’t focus on a “once a year” effort to cheer employees up, but should be something that is addressed all year round, encouraging better worklife balance as Dr Winwood explains.

“When you are mentally well, you are better at making the most of your life and work.  That doesn’t mean you’ll never experience any type of emotional problem, but it can mean that you’re able to deal with difficult or stressful situations more easily.  Research also shows that positive people tend to live healthier lifestyles”.

However, Dr. Winwood agrees that the “Monday Blues” can lead to less motivation, so employers should be looking at ways to improve on employee morale.

“If you think you workforce are lacking Monday motivation, identifying the reasons behind the low morale is key.  For example, improving the working environment is just one step to changing this.  Some minor improvements, such as better lighting, more comfortable chairs, or a supply of hot drinks, water and caffeine free alternatives may improve things for everyone and thus alter the mood”.

AXA PPP have designed the above infographic with tips on how to power on through and stay positive whenever those feelings hit.  However, it is important to stress that depression and mental illness shouldn’t be blamed on any single day – as there are 52 Mondays/weeks in a year and if you are struggling with feelings of depression over a long period you should speak to your doctor, a trusted family member or friend.

So lets not have a Blue Monday today, lets rename it happy Monday instead!

Call +44 203 538 5311, email: info@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit http://www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

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New Year – New You – improve your mental wellbeing at work in five easy steps

Happy New Year, another year is over and we start 2018 afresh.  However, according to a YouGov survey last year, three in five employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work; below we outline five steps that can be taken to improve wellbeing in the workplace.

1. How to identify your triggers

Mental health charity Mind says, working out what triggers stress or poor mental health can help you foresee problems and think of ways to solve them.

Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your poor mental health. You might be surprised to find out just how much you’re coping with at once.

Triggers may well be problems with certain tasks at work, one-off events like doing presentations, as well as regular issues such as attending interviews and appointments.

Also be aware that not having enough work, activities or change in your life can be just as stressful a situation as having too much to deal with.

2. Manage your time

Managing when and where you work can be helpful, since 2014, all employees (not just parents and carers) have had the right to request flexible working for any reason, and this can include switching shifts, working different hours and sometimes working from home.

Working from home, for example, can mean you skip the commute and instead spend that travelling time with your family, exercising or even getting up slightly later (while still getting to work on time).

3. Switch off that mobile phone

Unlike in France where employees have the right to disconnect, in the UK many people feel they can’t switch off, which can be detrimental to mental health.

There’s no such thing as work/life balance, most people think about home life when at work and work life when at home so they become integrated.  But that doesn’t mean that you need to be “constantly on”; scrolling through work emails or your work social media accounts 24/7 doesn’t give your brain a break and can lead to problems.

When you leave work, actually leave work, this means turning off your work phone. Like a laptop, we need to switch ourselves off and recharge and it’s vital not to have your work phone near your bed at night, as it interrupts your sleep.

4. Eat, sleep, exercise – repeat

When you’re not at work, pack in plenty of healthy, nutritious food, sleep and exercise. We all know that these things can boost our mental and physical health.

Being outside can help, going for a 15-minute walk during the day helps clear the mind according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, even if it might be difficult to take breaks at work when you’re stressed, it can make you more productive.

5. Don’t be hard on yourself

Of course many people have demanding jobs and when you’re caught up in a cycle of relentless hours, it’s easy to be hard on yourself.

Often we don’t need our boss or colleagues to give us a hard time as we’re good at doing that ourselves.  If you’re struggling at work, give yourself some space. This could mean taking a few days off, requesting flexible working or getting some support outside of work but once you’ve had some space, you can make good choices.

If you need any further help or guidance on wellbeing in the workplace, get in touch with HR Revolution, give us a call +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

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A version of this article first appeared on theguardian.com

 

 

How to identify stress in the workplace…

What is stress?… the definition provided by the Healthy and Safety Executive (HSE) is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them”.

As most people are aware stress is not a new problem, but it is something that employers now need to treat very seriously.

For employers the impact of stress is a very real problem.  Not only does it effect an employee’s health, morale, productivity, performance and attendance it can affect business productivity, employee turnover and reputation.

There is also a marked difference between stress and pressure.  In most jobs there is an element of pressure, but this can make employees feel challenged and motivated which can have a positive effect on performance.  Stress however, can cause a detrimental effect to employee’s mental and physical health and well-being.

According the the HSE there are six main causes of stress in the workplace:

  1. Demands – Employees may be unable to cope with the demands of their job, feel overwhelmed with work pattern, workload or environment.
  2. Control – Employees may feel stressed if they feel they are not in control about how they carry out their work, this can lead to them under-performing and feelings of isolation.
  3. Support – Employees can feel stressed if they are not being supported in the workplace by managers or colleagues.
  4. Relationships – If relationships within the workplace are causing stress, this can lead to allegations of bullying, harassment and bad team dynamics, and can lead to employee grievances being raised.
  5. Role – Employees can experience stress if they don’t understand what is expected of them in their role and responsibilities.
  6. Change – Managing change can be very stressful for employees, causing them to worry about how change will effect them.

As an employer it is always good to be vigilant as it is not just the workplace that causes stress.  In many instances personal issues such as relationships, family bereavement, illness and money can have an impact on a employees health.

Spotting signs of stress is key.  You may notice a change in an employee’s behaviour, habit or routine, for example smoking or drinking more, taking more time off or making uncharacteristic mistakes.

If you feel that you have an employee that is suffering with any of the indicators above and don’t know how to handle it, please get int touch with us at HR Revolution +44 203 538 5311 or email: info@hrrevolution.co.uk, we can help you navigate any issues and make sure that your employee feels fully supported.