These days, there’s a lot of talk about workplace culture and how it can be implemented. In this article, we’re looking at ways in which employment law can be used to help build a thriving workplace culture.
It seems that not a week goes by without another news story about workplace abuse and bullying. As a result, more and more employment solicitors for employers are taking a closer look at the law and recommending the implementation of a thriving workplace culture.
In this article, we will be looking at how employment law can work hand in hand with businesses to build a workplace culture to be proud of.
What is a Thriving Workplace Culture?
The term ‘Thriving Workplace Culture’ first made headlines in 2017, and this phrase encompasses various core standards and four enhanced standards which serve as guidelines for employers. These are:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health plan at work.
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling.
- Provide your employees with good working conditions.
- Promote effective people management.
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and well-being.
- Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting.
- Demonstrate accountability.
- Improve the disclosure process to encourage openness during recruitment.
- Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signpost to clinical help.
As you can see, these standards are all geared toward employee wellbeing which, in turn, will create a productive and happy workplace.
Employment Law and the Thriving Workplace Culture
In 2010, the UK Equality Act was amended to categorise people with poor mental health as disabled and to protect them from discrimination in the workplace. An employee is considered to be disabled if their mental health “has a substantial adverse effect on their life or affects their ability to perform day to day activities such as interacting with people, following instructions or keeping to set work times”.
In 2023, protecting mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever. The 2010 Equality Act can play a major part in building Thriving Workplace Cultures in a few ways, including:
One of the major challenges for those struggling with their mental health is the requirement to stick to rigid office hours. Mental health tends to ebb and flow meaning that, while a sufferer may be able to attend the office on one day, this may pose a significant challenge the next.
The 2010 Equality Act states timekeeping struggles as a factor in mental health disabilities and employers can use this as a guideline by:
- Introducing flextime: allowing an employee to adjust their hours when necessary, for example, starting their working day a little later to allow them to avoid travelling during times when public transport is overly crowded or allow for time in the office when the space is quieter.
- Remote hybrid working: since the global COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has very much been normalised. While employers may still want their employees to ‘touch base’ by attending the office occasionally, introducing a hybrid remote model can significantly help those with mental health issues such as anxiety.
Another point mentioned in the Equality Act is the need to provide employees with good working conditions and this can be implemented as part of a Thriving Workplace Culture by:
- Ensuring that employees have all the tools that they need to comfortably perform their duties.
- Providing quiet or safe spaces where those with mental health struggles can take a short time out when needed.
- Providing access to professional mental health support either in-person, by telephone or online
- Provide health-related benefits such as bicycle schemes and gym memberships.
Effective people management
The final point that we’ll touch on from the Act is that of effective people management. While having a mental health plan in place in line with UK employment law is great, it’s unlikely to work without effective employee education. By ensuring that managers and senior employees – and in fact, all employees – are trained and educated in the struggles experienced by those with mental health issues, building a Thriving Workplace Culture becomes much easier – and much more effective.
This isn’t to say that those with mental health struggles should be ‘singled out’ – rather just that their specific needs should be met. If an employee is a wheelchair user, an employer will be expected to make certain physical adjustments to the workplace. In the same vein, if an employee struggles with anxiety or depression, so too should their needs be met within the workplace.
The Perfect Partnership for a Thriving Workplace Culture
In many cases, employers will see employment law as something which serves to limit and constrain their activities but, in reality, the opposite is true. The employment law clauses which we’ve touched on in this article all relate to employee health and well-being.
In 2023, it’s no secret that the key to a successful business is its people – and that when employees are healthy and happy, they are considerably more likely to be productive. For an employer, this means that the mental health and well-being of employees should very much be considered an investment – and one which is extremely valuable to the success of the company.