Healthcare & Wellbeing Focused HR Policies
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Dan Evans
Employees’ priorities have changed, and for good reason. The past 18 months have seen an unprecedented level of uncertainty, with millions of families in the United Kingdom experiencing tragedy and uncertainty. As a result, we are seeing a growing demand for healthcare and wellbeing focused policies that assist employers in promoting an inclusive and supportive environment for their staff.
In this article we look at new emerging HR policies and benefits that help raise awareness of challenging life experiences and health related issues that employees often find difficult to disclose to their employer.
Mental Wellbeing at Work
It is estimated that 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year. In the context of the workplace, mental health issues are estimated to result in 72 million working days being lost each year, costing employers between £34 – £99 billion.
A policy on mental health in the workplace has the potential to offer significant cost savings, while helping employers protect the health, safety and wellbeing of staff. It is a great opportunity to promote awareness on understanding stress and mental health and offer staff guidance on how to support mental wellbeing and stress in the workplace. The policy can signpost staff to available support services that are available and appoint and identify mental health champions or mental health first aiders.
It is becoming increasingly popular to offer emergency days off for mental health, which allows staff to take a day off to maintain overall health and well-being. The benefit enables staff to commit to self-care before mental health issues escalate and encourages employees to disclose mental health issues to their manager at an early stage.
There have been campaigns for stronger protection for women going through the menopause, with some calling for the menopause to be a separate protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. As it currently stands, the effects of the menopause are more widely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability.
A menopause policy should encourage open conversations to help employers and colleagues support staff who are going through it. It is anticipated that many women are reluctant to disclose menopausal issues. A policy that specifically relates to the menopause supports an employer in normalizing such conversations.
There is an option to offer time off for anyone needing rest from the affects of the menopause, with some employers extending the leave to staff who are supporting a spouse, parent or child going through the menopause (this can be paid or unpaid). In consideration that menopausal symptoms are difficult to predict, it is recommended that an enhanced benefit be available to take at short notice
A fertility treatment policy can provide further information on the different types of fertility treatment, which should encourage staff to feel comfortable disclosing such matters to their line manager.
The policy should also set out how and when staff will benefit from protection relating to a potential pregnancy, which in the case of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) arises immediately after embryo transfer (which may be several weeks before an employee is confirmed as pregnant.)
It is also worth considering if your business is open to short -term requests for flexible working, which can help staff get on last minute appointments and plan appointments around ovulation cycles.
There is no legal right for time off for fertility treatment or related sickness, and such appointments may be treated the same as other medical appointments or sickness. As an enhanced benefit, employers can offer paid time off to staff to undergo fertility treatments. Offering paid time off for fertility treatment can go a long way to support staff during this difficult time while also building awareness within the business and encouraging conversations about fertility treatments.
Miscarriage and abortions
In accordance with maternity legislation, all the legal consequences of childbirth apply where a child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Any miscarriage before this date carries no special rights to leave or pay under maternity legislation.
It is recognized that many couples find miscarriages and abortions distressing, which may impact their ability to focus in work. As an enhancement, employers can offer a policy, which provides an employee who is dealing with a pregnancy loss that occurs in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, with the option to take paid leave.
It is recommended that managers are also offered training on how best to handle conversations on challenging life and health related issues. It is essential that such conversations are handled sensitively and empathetically by managers, both to promote staff retention and reduce absenteeism. It is appreciated that managers may find such conversations challenging. Therefore, by offering additional training, the manager should feel more prepared and confident in having such difficult conversations with staff.
If you require any healthcare and wellbeing focused policies, have any queries on introducing enhanced benefits into your business or if you require support on training your management team, please contact our Employment Team.