With the coronavirus pandemic constantly changing the ways in which we work, employee wellbeing has never been more important.
Early indications already suggest that the pandemic, and measures taken by the government to control it, such as lockdown and social distancing, will have a significant impact on the mental health of employees, with possible repercussions on performance and productivity in the workplace for many years to come.
Managing a return to the workplace in a post-pandemic world will be a complex process for employers, but employee wellbeing and happiness is arguably the most crucial factor.
The consequences of employers neglecting their duty of care in respect of employee wellbeing have always been significant but in the current challenging times the risks are even greater.
Poor staff morale leads to low productivity, high absenteeism and staff turnover, customer dissatisfaction, complaints, grievances and costly and time-consuming employment tribunal claims.
To ensure a sustainable business for the future, employers need a robust framework in place to ensure a healthy and adaptable workforce, address issues at an early stage and reduce the likelihood of potential claims escalating when the world returns to a ‘new normal’.
An employer’s legal obligations around employee wellbeing
An employer has a legal obligation and general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees. This obligation is wide-reaching and encompasses all aspects of an employee’s health, including mental health and wellbeing.
An employer’s legal duties include:
- Ensuring the work environment is safe
- Carrying out risk assessments
- Protecting employees from discrimination
- Making reasonable adjustments
Failure to adhere to these duties can result in employees bringing claims such as constructive unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
Employers need to act now and consider the practicalities of bringing staff back to the workplace safely and happily, and alleviate the inevitable concerns, anxieties and risks around coronavirus-related health and safety issues before it’s too late.
Practical steps employers should be taking now include:
- Produce or update a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy
- Produce and undertake wellbeing and coronavirus-related risk assessments
- Ensure health and safety policies and procedures are in place which reflect actual working practices
- Produce and circulate staff surveys to identify the factors which have a major impact on employee engagement
- Promote a culture of open communication and awareness around mental health issues
- Appoint and train Mental Health First Aiders and employee champions to provide additional and confidential support to staff
- Embed wellness plans and initiatives
- Educate and train managers on how to support the wellbeing of their teams
For more information on how to ensure you are complying with your legal obligations, or if you require assistance with implementing wellbeing strategies and policies in your workplace, please contact us on 0345 646 0406.
Alternatively, please fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.