Mental illness is a prevalent concern for many in our society, and the workplace is no different. Additionally, mental health is plagued by a significant stigma which sometimes results in conditions being left untreated.
Recently, employers have become more involved in the discussion on mental illness. They understand it impacts one of their most valuable resources — their people. Without engaged and healthy employees, many other areas of a business may also suffer. Employers can take proactive steps to address mental health in the workplace by providing educational information, resources for getting help, and creating a supportive culture for mental health.
In addition, employers should be aware that they have a myriad of compliance obligations when an employee is suffering from a mental health issue and should be prepared to act when the issue interferes with the employee’s ability to work. Considering proactive approaches and being prepared to respond to issues are essential in addressing mental health in the workplace. Let’s start by looking at some different programs and benefits:
In addition to providing benefits and services to your employees, you should examine your culture and take steps to reduce the stigma of mental illness in your workplace:
Employees who suffer from mental illness — whether depression, anxiety, or PTSD — may be entitled to a protected leave of absence under federal laws including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or both.
Where the disability or need for accommodation is not obvious, as is often the case with mental illness, employers are allowed to request medical documentation of the condition and must be prepared to engage in an interactive process with that employee relative to their request. The goal of the ADA’s interactive process is to determine which accommodation(s) are needed, whether they would be effective, and whether providing such accommodations would pose an undue hardship upon the employer’s business. It’s important to remember that reasonable accommodations do not include excusing employees from performing their essential job functions, but they may include rearrangement of marginal job duties or other deviations from procedures which would allow employees to succeed in their jobs.
Risk management and human resources are traditionally two different job functions, and the people in these areas have rarely crossed paths — but that is changing.
Why are these people starting to work together more frequently?
Foth Companies, headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., understands the link between the company’s success and the well-being of its employees. Implementing a wellness program called “Workin’ Well” featuring health risk assessments (HRAs) is one way the company is demonstrating its commitment to employees.
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