Here are some practical steps to take to ensure you are complying with the employers’ duty of care.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take all steps reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.
Legally, employers must abide by relevant health & safety and employment law, as well as the common law duty of care. They also have a moral and ethical duty not to cause, or fail to prevent, physical or psychological injury, and must fulfil their responsibilities with regard to personal injury and negligence claims.
Requirements under an employer’s duty of care are wide-ranging and may manifest themselves in many different ways, such as:
- Clearly defining jobs and undertaking risk assessments
- Ensuring a safe work environment
- Providing adequate training and feedback on performance
- Ensuring that staff do not work excessive hours
- Providing areas for rest and relaxation
- Protecting staff from bullying or harassment, either from colleagues or third parties
- Protecting staff from discrimination
- Providing communication channels for employees to raise concerns
- Consulting employees on issues which concern them.
- An employer can be deemed to have breached their duty of care by failing to do everything that was reasonable in the circumstances to keep the employee safe from harm. Employees also have responsibilities for their health and wellbeing at work – for example, they are entitled by law to refuse to undertake work that isn’t safe without fear of disciplinary action.
- In addition to statutory health and safety duties, employers are under a general obligation to take reasonable care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace. This means that they have a duty towards people who may have mental health issues, and also towards other employees (if there is a risk of a staff member with a mental health issue doing harm to others).
- They also have a duty not to discriminate because of a person’s disability. It is often (but not always) the case that serious mental health issues will constitute a disability. This will often mean making reasonable adjustments to try to support those with mental ill-health.
Bernadette Bruckner is a partner at MSBHelp.com – the online counselling, training and education portal for employers – supporting mental health in the workplace.