The mental health charity Mind has revealed that poor mental health affects half of all employees.
In a survey of 44,000 people, the charity discovered that of those who had experienced problems with stress, anxiety or low mood, only half had spoken to their employer about it. Mind has also reported that around 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem.
In addition, according to 2016 NHS data, one in three adults aged 16-74 were accessing mental health treatment in 2014.
Workplace mental health advice for employers
Acknowledging the widespread problem, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a campaign to help manage the risks of stress in the workplace. Shine a Light on Work Related Stress provides resources to help employers conduct a stress risk assessment and learn about how other organisations are successfully managing the issue.
It is a sad fact that people with mental health problems are often treated worse at work because of their condition. This is actually classed as discrimination: a liability every employer needs to beware of. Employees who experience discrimination at work have a legal right to challenge it under the Equality Act 2010.
Protection under the Act for those with mental health problems is offered if the condition they are suffering from is classed as a disability. To be classed as a disability, the condition must have a substantial, adverse and long term effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. If an employee tells their employer about their disability, then they will be afforded protection under the Equality Act.
It is therefore crucial for employers to be aware of their responsibilities in the area of mental health, and to start taking practical steps towards promoting mental well-being at work. These steps could include appointing a workplace mental health first aider; providing mental health training for managers; fostering a culture of support and openness; offering access to a counselling helpline and making use of the wide scope of resources available. You may find the following resources useful:
- Time to Change
- Department for Work and Pensions Access to Work
- Public Health England
- Business in the Community
There are also a number of mental health helplines listed on the NHS website.
Mind, along with The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations has created an online resource for employers and employees with advice, information, resources and training designed to help improve workplace well-being.
Employers must be cautious when employees take sick leave citing stress as the reason, especially when disciplinary proceedings are involved. Naturally as an employer you need to be free to manage your business, but taking into consideration an employee’s individual situation is vital. Fail to do so and you could be exposed to claims.
Obtaining insurance cover with a mental health condition
Conditions such as anxiety and depression can have a significant effect on quality of life; they can also make it difficult to when it comes to obtaining certain types of insurance cover, and not just the obvious protection such as life insurance and health cover. Travel insurance and motor insurance can also be affected.
The Equality Act makes it unlawful for insurers to discriminate against those with a mental health condition that is classed as a disability, unless that disability makes them an increased insurance risk.
Not all mental health conditions are not considered a disability, but where the issue has a long term impact on the ability to undertake day-to-day activities then it will be classed as such and therefore protected under the Act. Conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may all be classed as disabilities.
Because of the legal protection afforded by the Act, mental health conditions are unlikely to have any effect on the likes of home insurance or pet insurance. However, when it comes to insuring your vehicles, your travels, your life or your health, cover could be affected because the insured party is considered a greater risk for insurance. It may result in premiums being higher, or cover being refused altogether.
Certain conditions must be disclosed to the DVLA once diagnosed (“reportable conditions”) and these include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
All DVLA reportable conditions must be disclosed to your motor insurance provider, which could lead to an increased premium or, depending on the condition and the associated risk, a refusal of cover.
It is fairly normal for insurers to exclude pre-existing conditions when providing travel cover, and this will usually include mental ill health. This means that when you travel, you will not be insured for any treatment you need for your mental illness. You will still be covered for anything unrelated to your mental illness though. It may be possible to obtain specialist cover that does include pre-existing mental health problems, so do speak to your broker, although be prepared to pay a higher premium. The government’s guide to travelling with mental health problems could prove a useful read.
Income protection insurance
Because mental health problems rank as one of the most common causes of income protection claims, it comes as no surprise that pre-existing mental ill health conditions will be excluded from the majority of income protection policies. Unrelated injuries and illnesses however will usually still be covered.
Life insurance providers will ask about pre-existing conditions before offering cover and will usually request access to medical records to make their own checks. Under the Equality Act, insurance providers are not allowed to charge more or refuse cover without reasonable grounds, but the fact remains it can be challenging to obtain cover in certain situations. There are however specialist brokers who may be able to help you access cover, so it is worth looking into.
It is unlikely that you will be refused health insurance due to a mental health condition, however it is normal for any pre-existing conditions (anything experienced within the past five years) to be excluded from the cover.
Being upfront about mental illness
It is always advisable to let your insurer or broker know about any mental health condition you are suffering from. Failure to disclose could lead to a policy being cancelled, or you may be charged the difference in premium to make the policy up to what it should be taking into account your condition.
Whilst we are not able to provide cover for all of the risks discussed in this post, there may be some we can assist with depending on individual circumstances, such as travel insurance, home insurance and motor insurance. To discuss your specific insurance requirements, please do not hesitate to get in touch.