Mental Health and HR: Tackling New Challenges in the Workplace

by | May 18, 2023 | Mental Health

Adjusting to New Mental Health Disorders in the Workplace: HR’s Role

In the ever-evolving landscape of mental health, Human Resources (HR) departments are becoming more integral in helping employers adjust their policies and procedures to accommodate new mental health disorders, such as Prolonged Grief Disorder and Unspecified Mood Disorder.

Employers, guided by their HR teams, must understand that they have a legal and ethical obligation to accommodate employees experiencing mental health disorders, akin to physical illnesses or injuries. This involves fostering an open, stigma-free work environment that encourages employees to seek help when needed.


Legal Considerations for HR: Accommodating New Mental Health Disorders

The duty to accommodate is an essential legal consideration for HR professionals. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S., or the Ontario Human Rights Code in Canada, mandate employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees suffering from mental health disorders, unless it causes undue hardship to the organization. HR departments play a crucial role in ensuring these legal requirements are met, thereby avoiding potential legal consequences.


Measuring the Economic Impact of Mental Health Disorders in the Workplace

The economic impact of mental health disorders in the workplace is substantial, and HR professionals play a vital role in mitigating these costs. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. This emphasizes the economic imperative for HR to adequately address mental health in the workplace, including the provision of reasonable accommodations.


Implementing Effective Accommodation Processes for Employees with Mental Health Disorders

Implementing an effective accommodation process begins with open communication and understanding the specific needs of the employee.

Employers should develop a standard procedure to handle accommodation requests, which includes a fair and confidential evaluation process and ongoing dialogue with the employee.

Accommodating an employee with Prolonged Grief Disorder presents unique challenges, as triggers related to grief can be unpredictable and deeply personal.

Employers may need to consider strategies such as flexible scheduling, reassignment of duties, or providing a quiet space for the employee. The key is to foster a compassionate work environment that respects the individual’s grieving process.


How to Talk to HR About Mental Health

Employees often wonder how to approach HR about mental health. Employees should be open and honest about their situation.

Remember, HR’s role is to support the employee and provide necessary accommodation, if possible. Employees should not be afraid to ask for a private meeting with HR to discuss their individual needs. HR professionals are trained to handle these situations with sensitivity and care, and to ensure confidentiality.


Understanding ‘Undue Hardship’ in Mental Health Accommodations

The concept of ‘undue hardship’ is a pivotal element in the landscape of workplace accommodations for mental health disorders. For HR professionals, gaining a nuanced understanding of this term is essential. In its broadest sense, ‘undue hardship’ refers to the significant difficulty or expense an employer might encounter in providing accommodation for an employee. However, employers should always consult their Legal Teams to discuss what undue hardship really looks like, as recent court cases have shown that financial impact alone may not be good enough!

In the context of HR and workplace accommodation, this can take many forms. It might be financial, where the cost of the accommodation poses a serious strain on the organization’s resources. Alternatively, it could be operational, where the accommodation disrupts the organization’s workflow to a considerable extent or compromises the safety of other employees.

It’s essential for HR professionals to bear in mind that the threshold for ‘undue hardship’ is high. The term isn’t a catch-all excuse for denying accommodations. Rather, it’s a concept that should only apply in situations where accommodation genuinely imposes an excessive or disruptive burden on the organization.


Effective Strategies for HR: Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace

Promoting mental health in the workplace is a multi-faceted endeavor that extends beyond just providing accommodations. HR departments have a pivotal role to play in shaping a workplace culture that values and prioritizes mental health.

Creating a mentally healthy workplace begins with fostering a supportive and open culture. This means breaking down stigmas around mental health and encouraging open dialogue about mental well-being. HR can lead the charge in demonstrating that it’s okay to talk about mental health and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Mental health training is another critical component of promoting mental well-being at work. HR could organize regular training sessions for both employees and managers on mental health awareness. These sessions can cover topics like identifying signs of mental health issues, offering appropriate support, and maintaining mental well-being at work. For managers, additional training might focus on how to respond if an employee discloses a mental health issue, or how to initiate a conversation about mental health with an employee they’re concerned about.


Comparing International Practices in Workplace Mental Health Accommodations

Workplace mental health accommodations vary widely across the globe. In countries like Australia, the UK, and Canada, HR departments are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to help employees with mental health disorders perform their job.

However, in some developing countries, mental health accommodations in the workplace are still a relatively new concept. There may be less awareness surrounding this sensitive topic and societal stigma around mental health disorders can be high. Legal protections for employees with mental health disorders may be limited or non-existent.


How TSERGAS HR Can Help Your Business or Organization Review Their Mental Health Policies or Enact New Policies

TSERGAS Human Capital is a trusted partner in helping organizations navigate the complexities of mental health issues and potential accommodations in the workplace. We understand that each organization is unique and therefore requires a customized approach to managing employee mental health issues.

We can assist in reviewing and updating your current health policies to ensure they reflect best practices and legal requirements, including the accommodation of new mental health disorders. Our team can also aid in creating new policies and procedures, based on your unique needs, if your organization does not have any currently in place.

We recognize that implementing new policies or updating existing ones can be a challenging process that impacts various aspects of the organization. We work collaboratively with your team to manage this change effectively, ensuring clear communication, training, and support throughout the process.

Remember, supporting mental health in the workplace is not just a legal obligation, but a crucial component of a healthy and productive work environment.


For more resources on managing mental health in the workplace, please refer to the following:

Human Resources: Mental health support is the ‘new normal’

MENTAL DISTRESS (THE ECHO PANDEMIC): How our deteriorating mental well-being is affecting our everyday lives, professionally and personally

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health provides resources on mental health, including workplace mental health and wellness.

The Government of Canada offers support and resources on mental health and suicide prevention.

The National Institute of Mental Health provides valuable information about mental health disorders, including Prolonged Grief Disorder and Unspecified Mood Disorder.


Does your business need help navigating the complexities of HR policies related to mental health and duty to accommodate? Whether you’re looking to review and update existing policies, enact new ones, or help with implementing your current policies, TSERGAS HC is here to help. Contact us today at [email protected] or 416-788-8069. Together, we can make a difference!