What is Mental Health Leave?
mental health leave

What is Mental Health Leave?

As the weather gets hotter, you may find that more and more employees and colleagues complain about stress and mental health issues. Why is that? Well, with these complaints comes an opportunity for an employer to better understand their workforce. To improve morale and efficiency, it may even be wise to consider giving those members of staff short mental health leave.


What is Mental Health Leave?

Mental Health Leave is simply part of Sickness Leave. It does not have its own special category.

Whenever someone calls in sick due to mental health issues, this would be classed as taking mental health leave. If an employee is looking overwhelmed, or is overworked, an employer may grant them compassionate leave to help recuperate – This would also constitute mental health leave.


Who Gets It?

Basically, everyone gets it. This is something that should be answered within the company’s absence or leave policies. It is both an HR and a Health & Safety issue. Every employee is entitled to take sick leave if they are unwell – This includes suffering from mental health issues.

When starting a new job, it’s important for the new employee to raise any persistent mental health issues straight away. This is so that your employer can take that into account and inform the employee of specific policies. They are more likely to grant an authorise sick leave if the reason is clear and reasonable.

Mental Health should be treated with the same consideration as Physical Health in a company’s absences or leave policy.


Everyone Is Different

It’s important to know that everyone is different. Everyone handles stimuli differently, handles stress differently, handles loss differently. What affects one person may not affect another. For example, counter to expectations, a one-to-one conversation may actually be more stressful to an induvial with social anxiety than a group conversation. That’s why it is extremely important for you to get to know your colleagues and staff.

To improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of the workforce it is imperative that you understand staff members’ idiosyncrasies. Showing your willingness to adjust for the health of another is a great way of showing appreciation.

It is also important to note that some people have a chronic mental health issue. These issues cannot be explained by overstimuli alone. It is likely that that person understands their condition more than you will, so it is important to listen and be attentive to your colleague’s needs.


How Do You Know When to Ask For It?

This really depends on how well you know yourself.

Trust yourself and trust that you’ll know when enough is enough. So, if you need time off, you need time off. Insist. It’s as simple as that.

It also depends on how well you know your company. For example, honesty is always the best policy when it comes to the work environment, but it’s not necessary to divulge extremely personal information. Some employers can be less understanding than others. Find a colleague, HR rep, or manager who you can be open with, and tell them why you need time off.


How Do You Know When to Grant It?

An employer always reserves the right to ask for clarification. If someone requests leave for mental health issues, it’s important to know why. This will give you an initial understanding of the problem, how long it may last, and if it will happen again.

The company’s leave policy should cover ongoing or extended absences. For example, if the employee has gone over the self-diagnosis leave period, then a doctor’s note may be required.


Can An Employer Say No?

All requests for mental health leave must be reasonable and within the company guidelines. It must also be clear to the employer whether this is an ongoing issue, as they may need to make necessary adjustments.

As alluded to in the opening paragraph – Summer and Winter are perfect examples of times when mental health leave may be appropriate, yet requested without clarity. For example, the farcically named S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects certain people’s moods during Summer and Winter months. Sometimes the affect is so strong it can lead to a serious depressive state.

Imagine a person suffering with the very serious Seasonal Affective Disorder asking for time off with this message:

                Can’t come in – Too hot.

It’s fair to say that the absence will go unauthorised.

If you are clear and transparent, it will help your employer know that the time off is justified. They may even have a workplace solution.


Occupational Health and Returning to Work

Every employer should aim to help an affected employee work comfortably. It applies to employees with disabilities, and it applies to employees with mental health issues as well. Some mental health issues qualify as a disability, therefore are protected from discrimination under the law.  These forms of mental health issues affect the way in which a person operates on a daily basis – If someone has a disability, they can get support at work from their employer.

Other than allowing time off, this support could come in the form of Occupational Therapy. A sensory room within schools and hospitals is a great example of occupational health taken seriously.

Sometimes it is not possible to return to work straight away. A occupational health assessment can conclude that there needs to be a phased return to work. This is just as it sounds – A slow return to work after an absence.


What to Do Next?

We advise you to perform a Return-to-Work Meeting after every absence. This will identify whether or not they are fit to return to work and outline any adjustments that need to be made upon their return. With mental health leave it is important to understand if there is anything you and your organisation is doing to cause issues. For example, in the education sector, teacher burnout causes a great deal of absences and disruption throughout the year. This has many causes, most of which is from the organisation and work itself… If you believe your organisation may be causing issues with employee mental health, get support as soon as possible!


Hopefully that made the whole situation clearer, but If you need help with any of these issues, we can help. We have years of experience working with businesses to help keep their workforce healthy and compliant. If you want to know more, you can call us on 0330 400 5490 or contact us on our easy-to-use form.

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