how can an organisation demonstrate its duty of care for mental wellbeing

How can an organisation demonstrate its duty of care for mental wellbeing?

24 Aug 2020: by Maria Paviour - founder of Cari - connect with me on LinkedIn

In a recent blog, I asked the question ‘Does an EAP satisfy your duty of care to your employees?’ and explained the brain science behind my perspective on this.

It concluded that no, an EAP does not satisfy your duty of care. It is supportive, but it isn’t accessed by everyone or proactive in any way.

From a legal perspective, this was borne out by the case of Intel v Law in 2007. The presence of a workplace counselling service will not automatically serve to discharge the employer’s duty of care in stress claims.

Unless an organization makes a proactive attempt to find out about wellbeing and provide individual support to those with poor levels of mental health, it can't say, in defense, that it has fulfilled its duty of care.

So how can an organisation demonstrate fulfilment of its duty of care?

It can be interpreted that the organisation needs to:

1. Ensure every individual is given an opportunity to report on 'how they are feeling' as an individual and confidentially.

This is different from staff surveys which find out themes and issues that can be strategically dealt with. All good in general, but not helpful for an individual in need.

EAPs are insurance policies that may pick people up when they are on their knees, if they know about them. But people who are doing their best to continue working, no matter how difficult it is, will find their ability to make good decisions significantly impaired due to stress and work pressure.

Therefore they cannot think about doing proactive things to help themselves (like using EAP offerings). This is often because their mental resources are focused on helping others in their work or at home.

Even where mental health first aiders are available, it is difficult to have the time and resources to help everyone (especially if they are furloughed). And some people will not feel comfortable or ready to speak to someone face to face in their workplace (read our blog that asks if an AI wellbeing consultant can help improve mental health.)

That's where Cari from Wellbeing with Cari can be such a great support - as an AI-enabled online solution (that still directs individuals to real people for support if needed), she can work 24/7/365 with all employees to support wellbeing with her confidential online consultations and individual support plans...

EAPs require the employee to make the running! Many employees who are 'presentees' i.e. going to work when not fully fit, appear to consider EAPs a good idea in principle, but for others and not for themselves!

2. The organization must respond to the specific needs of each individual - one size doesn't fit all.

For a start, offering training or workshops can be detrimental to some people, they are not helpful at all depending upon the state of their brain.

If their brain is incapacitated by stress, a workshop can increase their stress and unhappiness.

So not only does the organisation need to provide tailored support that suits the needs and preferences of the individual, it also must ensure that what it is offering support their needs at that time. For example, one to one support may be best for people with very low wellbeing.

3. The organization must also show that it has make numerous efforts to offer the right support to the right person at the right time

It is not enough to say "here is some help, take it if you want it".

You have to be able to demonstrate that you have done everything in your power to fulfil your duty of care. You must show, in a caring and supportive way, that you can provide a service that is flexible, adaptable to the needs of the employee and confidential.

4. The organisation needs to ensure that you have included real human support.

A website, app or learning resource is not sufficient to demonstrate duty of care.

5. You need to track wellbeing, not only across the whole organisation, but also for each individual.

Organisations need up to date data to showing that you take wellbeing seriously, and, more importantly, to ensure that you target the right areas with the right support.

Individuals must be shown to be progressing with their wellbeing. Where this is not improving, the organisation needs to show that it has a system in place to monitor this, along with interventions to support wellbeing levels for each of its employees.

If we do it for machines, we can do it for people

It can seem a lot to do, but actually we do it for machinery all the time!

We maintain, troubleshoot, take out of commission while we upgrade, never overwork for fear of it burning out, have down time - because we have to. We don't expect it to operate without power!

People, on the other hand, maybe considered an 'expensive resource' and an expendable one, when we have to do any of these, let alone all of them.

So, in my opinion, it is time to change our perspective and see people as HUMAN resources as opposed to human RESOURCES!

I'd love to hear your thoughts, because I know there is a huge pressure to do the right thing with a limited budget and limited resources - HR people are human too!

We need to remember to 'pull down our own oxygen mask first, before we help others to use theirs'. This is true for HR. So I'm all in favour of directing support to the people who are doing all the supporting, as soon as possible.

Proactive mental health wellbeing intervention - Cari

Over 30 years ago I started to tackle this problem and this is the reason that Cari was born. She has evolved into an AI-enabled mental health and wellbeing super assistant who can help everyone in your organisation right away. She addresses all four of Deloitte’s success factors for wellbeing interventions (published January 2020).

Cari helps all your people (free of charge) with confidential online wellbeing consultations and real-time personalised support plans, at any time. Giving them the tools to immediately boost their wellbeing and improve their performance. She signposts them to the right person at the right time if they are in need of more support, along with your other wellbeing interventions.

She is an enormous help right now in the Covid pandemic to public and private sector organisations. But she will continue to be a proactive service for flagging any wellbeing issues early. She works 24x7x365 providing as many wellbeing consultations for each person as they need over time. She’s your HR team’s ideal colleague!

Cari is now being offered free to organisations to help them manage the huge wellbeing task presented by COVID-19.

24 August 2020: by Maria Paviour - founder of Cari - connect with me on LinkedIn

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