Time to Talk Day – what can employers do to help out?
Time to Talk Day was launched back in 2014 and this year takes place on Thursday 2 February 2023.
Ran by two mental health charities – Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, The Time to Talk Day website (Time To Talk Day) states;
‘Time to Talk Day is the nation’s biggest mental health conversation. Happening every year, it’s a day for friends, families, communities, and workplaces to come together to talk, listen and change lives. We know the more conversations we have; the better life is for everyone. Talking about mental health isn’t always easy, but a conversation has the power to change lives.’
The charity explains:
‘We want everyone to feel comfortable talking about mental health – whenever they like. Talking about mental health reduces stigma, helping create supportive communities where we can talk openly about mental health and feel empowered to seek help when we need it.’
Resources for employers
The Time to Talk Day website contains ideas and resources that employers can use in the workplace to promote talking about mental health.
Resources include: digital and social media banners, posters and activities including quizzes and bingo. (Download a Pack – Time To Talk Day).
These conversations link with an employer’s wellbeing strategy and initiatives. Managers must ensure that these conversations are only held with current employees and not during a recruitment or interview process. A discussion around a candidate’s health at this time would be unlawful. There is one key exception and that is whether a candidate has any specific requirements to enable them to attend an interview.
Everyone has mental health. It is important to remember that like a physical illness, people can have poor mental health in one area, and good mental health in another. Employees should feel supported and know that you treat mental health as seriously as you do physical health at your organisation.
Employers should consider putting in place Mental Health First Aiders in their workplace who would be an employee’s first point of communication for any mental health related concern. The appointed employee/s would receive training and carry out this role alongside their normal duties, similar to a medical first aider. Just like Time to Talk Day, appointing a Mental Health First Aider will encourage discussions on mental health which will assist in eliminating the stigma of having poor mental health.
Don’t forget to remind employees regularly about the benefits of your Employee Assistance Programme should you have one in place.
Employee concerns about mental health discussions
It must be acknowledged that there is still a stigma around mental health in the workplace. Even with initiatives like Time to Talk Day, for many it is a taboo subject that they are reluctant to discuss in the workplace. Employees could be concerned they will be treated differently by their manager, miss out on a promotion or even be dismissed. In an economic downturn employees can be even more reluctant to open up and obtain support from their employer, even if their mental health is starting to impact on their work, as they are afraid of losing their job.
To improve how mental health is viewed in a workplace, employers should consider training for their line managers. Ill-health (whether it leads to time off from work or not) should be discussed sensitively and managed in accordance with an employer’s policy and employment law. The definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 is very wide and covers both physical and mental impairments. Talking about mental health issues can sometimes lead to discrimination or unfair dismissal if handled poorly. It is important to give managers guidance and ensure they are up to date with managing health issues and can build trust with their team members.