Whether work is causing the issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it
Why do I need to do a Mental Health Risk Assessment?
It is estimated that one in four of us will have a mental health issue this year. Different people respond in different ways to the pressures in their life, and the causes can be work-related, home-related, or a combination of the two. A CIPD survey in 2016 found that more than half of the people reporting poor mental health said that it was due to a combination of work and non-work issues, whilst 37% said it was solely due to personal issues outside of work, and only 7% said it was the result of work alone.
Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it
What is a Mental Health Risk Assessment?
A risk assessment is a structured way of identifying the hazards to mental and physical health in the working environment, identifying who might be harmed and how, and identifying measures that can be taken, so far as reasonably practicable, to reduce the likelihood and severity of that harm.
How do I carry out a Mental Health Risk Assessment?
If you employ fewer than 5 people, you don’t have to write the details of the risk assessment down, but it does make it easier to review the risk assessment later. If you employ more than 5 people, you have a legal obligation to document the risk assessment, and there is a template mental health risk assessment on the HSE website.
The HSE Management Standards provide a framework for simplifying risk assessments for work-related stress.
The six elements are:
- Demands– this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
- Control– how much say the person has in the way they do their work
- Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
- Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
- Roles– whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
- Change– how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation
Against each element, you should identify who could be harmed, including special classes of employees such as new employees, young people, new and expectant mothers, or disabled people.
Next, you identify what you are already doing to protect people from harm against each of the six elements.
Next, you identify what further action you need to take to reduce the risk, so far as reasonably practicable.
Finally, you agree who will take responsibility for making sure the actions are carried out, and by when, and record when they have been done.
Your risk assessment should be reviewed if an employee experiences an episode of mental ill-health, and whenever there are any significant changes in the business.
What do I do with the Mental Health Risk Assessment?
There is no point in carrying out this work if the Risk Assessment is going to sit in a cupboard, never to see the light of day.
Leaders and employees need to be informed of the results of the risk assessment – they may have valuable input to add to it – and of the action that they need to take to protect themselves and others from harm.
By carrying out the risk assessment, and communicating it to your team, you are demonstrating to them that you care about their health and well-being, and this will lead to more engaged and productive employees.
The good news is that people with a mental health problem can, and do, get better. Positively managing mental health well-being can lead to improvements in morale, productivity, and loyalty, and enhance the company’s brand.