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Like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can affect employee's lives at work. If an illness makes it impossible for an employee to do their job, then employees can be dismissed due to mental health—following a full and fair process.
But it’s the employer’s responsibility to protect employee mental health. Dismissal should be the last resort. Employers must make suitable adjustments and support employees with any issues. They have a duty of care to do so.
This guide will cover mental health and dismissal from an employer perspective. We’ll look at when it's okay—and when it's not okay—to dismiss an employee with mental health problems. We'll also consider how mental health issues can impact life at work and the ways employers can help.
Mental health can be generally defined as a person’s ability to cope with the daily demands of life. A mental illness can stop a person from being able to meet the demands of their normal routine. Common mental conditions include:
But there are many more illnesses that could be affecting your employees right now.
There are a variety of ways that mental health issues can affect an employee’s life at work. Here are some things you might notice from an employee with mental health problems:
This isn’t an exhaustive list. Everyone’s experience of mental health problems will be different and unique to them. But these are some common ways an employee performance is affected.
There are some cases where you can be fired for mental health in the UK. It’s fair to dismiss an employee because:
However, employers must take action to avoid this. This could include:
As an employer, you have a duty of care to look after your staff. Employees are protected by UK employment law from unfair dismissal due to mental health issues. If you’re going to dismiss an employee, you must be able to show that:
Unfair mental health dismissal is illegal. If someone isn’t happy with the way they’re being fired for mental health issues, they may claim discrimination.
Unfair dismissal for mental health in the UK can lead to employment tribunals, costly fines, and a damaged business reputation. To prevent this, employers must minimise factors at work that could cause mental health issues.
Employers have a duty of care to protect employees from harm at work. Common reasons an employee might experience mental illness at work include:
Employers must minimise risks to employee mental health in the workplace. We’ll cover some ways you can begin to do this below.
Employers must consider ways to improve employee mental health. Unfair dismissal isn’t an option.
There are steps you can take to prevent dismissal. Mental health can have a huge impact on employee performance. That’s why it's essential employers begin to prioritise it in the workplace.
A well-rounded approach to employee wellbeing benefits staff, employers and the business too. Here are some things you can do to help.
Provide training to line managers on mental health in the workplace. They are often the first port of call when it comes to taking care of employee wellbeing. Make sure all line managers are checking in with employee health in weekly meetings. Don't let small problems slip by—they might become serious issues later down the line.
The last resort should be dismissal. Mental health problems can improve with an employee assistance program.
EAP's offer counselling and mental health services to employees. This will aid recovery, reduce anxiety and see employees return to work quicker than without the intervention.
Employers can keep their finger on the pulse of employee wellbeing with a regular survey. Asking questions like: ‘How happy are you in your role?’ and ‘is there anything that we could do to support employee wellbeing in the workplace?’ will direct you towards areas of improvement.
Mental health first aiders are like physical first aiders. Instead of physical illnesses, they help people who are struggling with mental illnesses in the workplace. This course can teach your employees tips and guidance on supporting employees while at work.
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