UK research found that 305 of people who tested positive for Covid-19 reported feeling anxious or depressed. People who had previously had a mental health condition were twice as likely to feel anxious and depressed after testing positive than those who hadn’t previously experienced a mental health condition. The Office of National Statistics found that 1 in 5 adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021, this is more than double that before the pandemic. Mind, the mental health charity, found that 60% of adults and 68% of young people said their mental health got worse during lockdown. It’s believed that the impact of lockdowns and restrictions, such as social distancing and isolation, impacted negatively on people’s mental health. Some employees said they were worried about catching the virus or passing it on to family, they had fears about their job security, returning to work and financial concerns.
Research into the health impacts of lockdown found that many people had a poor work-life balance. Employees reported losing motivation, feeling a loss of purpose, increased anxiety and feeling isolated.
Employers who have a mental health condition may be disabled as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and will be protected from discrimination. The Equality Act could apply to the medical condition known as “Long-COVID”. Long-COVID is a wide-ranging collection of symptoms, which linger for weeks, if not months, for sufferers. If the condition is likely to last 12 months or longer and has a substantial adverse effect on day-to-day activities an employment will have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. However, it is good practice for an employer to consider focusing on making reasonable adjustments rather than focusing on whether an employee is a disabled person.
What should employers do?
It’s important that employers support the mental health of employees who have worked in key worker roles throughout the pandemic. These employees who have worked under extreme pressure may be more vulnerable to stress and mental health problems. Employers should also continue to support those who are working from home as they may be feeling isolated and struggling to keep a healthy work-life balance and take care when asking staff to return to the office/workplace.
Managers should be briefed on potential mental health implications of Covid and lockdown and how they should support their staff.
If symptoms of poor mental health are understood within an organisation it gives the opportunity to take early action and hopefully stop it escalating.
Managing Mental Health Disclosure
When a disclosure is made to the HR team they should encourage the employee to speak to the manager. HR should provide training to management on how to respond to a disclosure.
If you need further advice don’t hesitate to contact our Employment Team on 01302 341414.