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HR’s guide to mental health

HR is in charge of performing tasks that don’t really belong anywhere else, regardless of the size. For instance, HR will take care of payroll when accounting can’t. HR will also verify compliance and regulatory concerns if the organisation doesn’t have onsite access to a legal team. However, HR’s most crucial role within a company is likely counselling, which helps employees with any issues so they can return to their most productive and fulfilled selves.

With that said, HR professionals aren’t often trained in counselling or therapy, so what do we expect them to know about mental health? In this Pacific Prime UK article, we’ll take a look at what HR should know about mental health, so they can have a better understanding of their responsibilities and help foster a stable and fulfilled workplace.

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About mental health

These days, mental health is a term that is often used to describe all types of mind-related issues. While the definition of mental health certainly is emotional and psychological wellbeing, recognising and maintaining mental health can be difficult.

To begin with, much of the human brain remains impossible to comprehend, even by mental health professionals. Determining whether someone is mentally fit, or even sane for that matter, is not always easy. Likewise, mental health issues can be presented in many different ways, such as emotional distress, physical illness and “off” behaviour.

What’s worse, the causes of different mental health issues are not completely understood and involve life experiences, such as abuse or trauma, along with genes and other biological factors.

The growing awareness surrounding mental health has had a positive effect on how many seek treatment for their conditions. According to the NHS, one in four adults in the UK experience mental illness, which means that HR professionals will more than likely come across an employee, or several for that matter, with a mental condition. Therefore, learning how HR should handle these issues in the company is an important way to prepare for the inevitable.

What is HR’s responsibility when it comes to an employee’s mental health?

The primary purpose of human resources professionals is to make sure that employees are comfortable in the workplace. To achieve this, HR manages employee benefits packages, which keeps employees stay physically healthy. Likewise, they supervise payroll to ensure that employees are paid properly. They can even play a role in recruiting and terminating employees, especially when it comes to making sure things go smoothly to encourage workforce productivity.

HR provides professional development services to help employees improve their skills and knowledge. And, perhaps most importantly, they offer appropriate support by listening and responding to employees’ personal problems.

All of the duties mentioned above can easily introduce HR to an employee with mental health issues, making it crucial for everyone in HR to understand how to act accordingly. For example, HR departments should know that there are many legal rights surrounding mental health, and discrimination is taken very seriously.

Mental health discrimination at work

Employees with mental health issues also have the right to ask their employers to make “reasonable adjustments” to their job due to their disability, such as altered work schedules, supervision or environment changes. Additionally, HR cannot fire someone just because of their condition. They must attempt to work with the employee first and prove that their condition makes them unsuitable for employment.

The stigma surrounding mental health

Even though mental health awareness is growing, it is still stigmatised. As a result, mentally ill employees feel uncomfortable when it comes to admitting their issues and getting help. When left untreated, employees with mental conditions often end up missing work and demonstrating poorer performance than their colleagues.

Since untreated mental health-related issues cost companies a significant amount of money, training HR to help employees get a diagnosis and mental aid makes a lot of sense.

What HR can do to assist with mental health issues

HR professionals who are interested in mental health issues might want to expand their knowledge about various conditions, as well as appropriate responses. HR resource providers can often provide white papers, learning tools, seminars and more to educate HR workers on the subject.

At a minimum, HR professionals should be familiar with the employment laws regarding mental health and brief their employees on the rules and reactions according to the employer’s preference. In addition, HR should do what they can to create a better workplace culture for mentally ill employees, as well as make the workforce feel more relaxed in general.

A workplace that respects mental health, accepts mental conditions and helps employees find the treatment they deserve, encourages more employees to voice their troubles and, after some time, improves overall performance.

Need help with an employee benefits package?

Pacific Prime offers customized global employee benefits solutions and provides a wide range of employee benefit and group insurance solutions such as international health insurance in the UK. For more information on private health coverage in the UK or answers to any of your questions, contact our team of experts today.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.
Jantra