A small business has recently called the ‘Health for Work Adviceline’ about an employee showing signs of mental stress in the workplace over a period of months. Despite a supportive attitude from her employer and colleagues during this time, the employee had not wished to reveal the reason for her distress and her frequent absences from work and obvious unhappiness when at her desk was now impacting on her work performance.
The employer, like those in many small businesses, has neither the experience nor the resources to deal with what is a complex mental health issue. After inputting ‘stress at work’ into the search engine and discovering the adviceline, she was able to directly call an experienced occupational specialist practitioner with NHS Plus.
This resulted in the employer being given a concise list of issues to consider and how to go about resolving them from this service targeted precisely at helping small businesses such as hers.
The employer, who wishes her name to remain confidential due to the sensitive nature of the problem involved, says, “There’s masses of information out there, but as a small business, I did not have the time to try and find a solution that I could implement quickly, efficiently and within a legal context. The service I found did just this – separating the wheat from the chaff and giving me an easy to follow action plan that’s all free!
“It has been a relief to find the free helpline run by NHS Plus dealing specifically with the individual concerns of small businesses. I spoke to an experienced occupational nurse who was incredibly easy to talk to and whose advice was easy to follow and implement. She directed me to all the necessary procedures that I had to undertake to fulfil my obligations as an employer, such as a stress risk assessment. I was also directed to the exact pages on relevant organisations’ websites where I could download the correct risk assessment form or a formatted GP referral letter. A follow-up report and contact details for further advice was also sent to me which has been really useful.”
The employer has also been advised to set up an informal meeting in a private environment to present the problem and to identify whether the staff member has an underlying health problem.
If this is the case, the employer can ask for permission to contact the employee’s GP for advice on managing the condition.
If, however, the problem originates at work and has become a capability issue, then workplace adjustments can be made, including the assignment of support ‘buddies’, counselling options, and setting of goals such as a 12-week review, while maintaining regular lines of communication.
“To just be able to talk directly to someone with professional expertise has been wonderful. Her advice has given me the confidence I need to now go ahead and help our employee,” the employer says.