Concern for an Employee - How to approach


12 March 2021

Concern for an Employee - How to approachIf an employer is concerned about the mental health of an employee because he/she has observed changes in behaviour, appearance, standard of work, or communication patterns, it is highly advised that the employer arrange a private & confidential meeting with the employee (by video-call or in person) as soon as possible. 

Step 1: Select the method of contact and/or venue

Ensure it is private and confidential (no one is able to overhear your conversation). 

Step 2: Invite the employee to have a Chat

Ask the employee to meet with you regarding a private matter you wish to discuss. Choose a convenient day and allow 30 mins+. 

Prior to meeting it is a good idea to write down a list of any changes you have observed which have concerned you (be specific where you can). 

Step 3: Sensitively and positively approach the subject

A good conversation starter is, “I wanted to take this time to find out how you are doing? I’ve noticed you don’t seem your usual self.  Is everything ok?” 

Avoid using medical language such as “depressed or depression; anxiety disorder, phobias or OCD” unless the employee discloses that he/she has been diagnosed by their doctor. 

Also avoid common language which can be unintentionally derogatory such as “mental, manic or crazy” as an example. In addition, do not mention what others have said about them, unless it is something their direct line manager has reported or observed.

Do mention some of the changes you have ‘observed’  such as "you look tired/upset/worried/distracted…” , “you are unusually quiet/silent/withdrawn”, “I’ve noticed you aren’t answering your phone or responding to calls/emails”, etc. 

Step 4: Reassure them that you care

Whether the employee discloses they have a problem/are struggling or not, it is important that you reassure them that you are a caring employer. Let him/her know that you will always be available to listen and support.

If an employee does open up about a personal or work challenge or an issue that is causing him/her distress, it is important that you listen without interruption. 

Step 5: Ask what support he/she needs from you at this time?

Find out what type and level of support he/she needs from you to manage effectively. 

If the employee mentions work-related stress -you must identify the causes of distress for this employee: is it do to workload, environment, job role ambiguity, relational issues, etc.? You must consider the HSE stress management standard guidelines. For more on this visit: https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm.  It is your duty to document and evidence how you are approaching this. 

If an employee discloses they have a diagnosed mental health issue you may need to consider making work-adjustments to ensure the employee can perform their role despite their mental health illness, see: https://www.acas.org.uk/supporting-mental-health-workplace 

If an employee has a personal issue that is impacting him/her at work, then it is advisable to make reasonable adjustments (e.g. flexible working hours for agreed period of time, shorter work week, time off for doctor appointments, etc.) to support the employee during the difficult phase and prevent mental health problems from developing.

You do not need to agree any work adjustments right then and there…you may want to get legal advice first. So advise the employee that you will consider their requests and will get back to them ASAP (you can say that you need some time to consider the best support you can offer).

Do offer options available to the employee that may help, such as access to:
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) if there is one set-up
Wellness Chat with a Counsellor -My company Uplift are the only ones to provide this service. It costs only £40 per call. Contact jaimie@upliftmentalhealth.co.uk to find out more. (Prevention and/or early intervention).
Mind Helpline - 0300 123 3393; info@mind.org.uk, text 86463 . This is a dedicated helpline for anyone concerned about their mental health. 
Mental Health Foundation information sheets on various mental health topics free of charge - https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Step 6: Document & Review

It is advisable to document your meeting listing the main issue (work/personal/both), the actions taken (employee to visit GP, you to make enquiries as to adjustments, etc.), what information/support you have offered and when you have agreed to reconvene.  

Step 7: Schedule a follow-up meeting


Support for Employer

ACAS offer free advice to employers relating to mental health problems or any other employment related issue.  You can contact them on: 0300 123 1100 

I also recommend their link on managing mental ill health at work: https://archive.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=6064#Spot%20the%20signs%20of%20mental%20ill%20health 
 
Concern for an Employee - How to approach