Employer Branding

What are the Basics of a Good Mental Health Policy?

Some companies have won awards for their employee mental health policies, others have just got the bare minimum in place to ensure they and their staff are covered, while shockingly some organizations haven’t even considered putting one in place.

So what should an employee mental health policy include and why? Well luckily for you, we’ve got just the people who can give you that information. Some of you may already have these in place, but if not then how about including them now?

Nick Patel

At a minimum, employers leading the way in mental health benefits should offer two core benefits: (i) an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and (ii) mental health coverage.  The companies that are differentiating themselves in regard to EAPs are the ones that want employees to use the program.  Many employers “check the box” by providing an EAP vendor that does not focus on driving engagement.  Employers need to also provide mental health coverage, thereby removing barriers for employees who may need professional help.

Nick Patel, CEO of Wellable.

Renae Shaw

Every company should invest in employee assistance programmes, such as free counselling, so staff members have both an internal and external support network and gives them the opportunity to address problems that they may not want to discuss with a manager or colleague.

Having a good return to work process is also important to ensure workers feel like they can manage their mental health without fear of risking their job. It also means managers are asking the right questions in the right way and staff feel like they can be honest.

Renae Shaw, Head of HR at Search Laboratory.

Lee Keyes

Good mental health care coverage in insurance policies, especially parity. Well-articulated, managed, and reasonable benefits and leave policies.



Dr. Lee Keyes, is a Psychologist and Emeritus Director at the University of Alabama.

Emma Mamo

Having clear policies and approaches for managing mental health helps organisations ensure consistency but in practice this may look different in different workplaces and contexts. For example small businesses may not have formal policies for every situation but they can still develop a clear positive culture and approach on mental health and communicate this clearly to staff. Things like a flexible working policy as a basic can go a long way to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of your staff.


Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind.

Brendan Street

Current legislation states employees experiencing a long-term mental health issue have protection under the Equality Act 2010. This means reasonable adjustments must be made to work practices.

However, these adjustments don’t need to be complicated. For example, some find commuting during peak hours a stressful experience, so offering flexible start and finish times can help employees choose the hours, which work best for them.

It’s important to work with wellbeing partners to put in place bespoke return to work plans to support employees with more acute mental health concerns. This includes gradually increased hours and responsibilities, as well as regular reviews.

Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health.

Shona Davies

To ensure that their existing sickness policy applies to mental health conditions as well. I would also suggest having a nominated person that an employee can talk to if they’re struggling and ideally, ensure training for line managers in how to manage employee wellbeing. There are many charitable organisations who are able to offer such training, coaching and support for a donation!


Shona Davies, Founder of Shona Davies Consulting.

Chieu Cao

It’s important to remember that what can work for one person and improve their mental health, might not work for another. Instead, we should be focusing on designing policies that focus on workplace factors that may negatively affect mental wellbeing – policies of prevention rather than treatment. This could be anything from: giving employees information on and increasing their awareness of mental wellbeing, offering them flexible working arrangements that promote their wellbeing and/or establishing a good two-way relationship so that they feel comfortable coming to you to discuss any issues.


Chieu Cao, Co-Founder of Perkbox.


Lucy Faulks

As outlined by the WHO, the first step is to become aware of any mental health issues in the workplace. Speaking to employees, running regular employee surveys and providing training for managers to be able to spot the signs of mental ill health are good ways to start to do this. Many companies choose to elect a wellbeing committee or team to take on the responsibility for not only mental health policy implementation but also managing the overall health and wellbeing strategy.

Lucy Faulks, Co-founder of Elevate.

Paula Whelan

As a minimum, to comply with Equality Legislation, an employer should have in place a policy on providing reasonable adjustments for employees – most Mental Health issues are likely to be covered under the Disability element of the Equality Act 2010.

Paula Whelan, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Right Track Learning.

Nicole Thurman

I don’t have a good answer for that one, I just know that it’s not enough. Most companies don’t do a good job of it because they don’t understand how intertwined mental health is with people’s ability to be happy, engaged and productive. If companies understood those correlations, they may spend more time thinking about how to help people be mentally healthy.

Companies that have onsite clinics are missing the boat if they don’t have mental health services, as well. Of all the visits that take place at our clinic, 2 out of 5 involve some sort of mental health issue. That’s one of the reasons why we added the mental health providers, to make sure we were directing care in the most efficient and best way possible.

I think it’s part of the problem with the delivery of healthcare in the United States, in general. There isn’t a holistic approach that takes mental health into consideration, which is absolutely critical. Not including mental health is a big miss for a lot of companies.

Nicole Thurman, Vice President, Talent Management at CHG Healthcare.

By Ushma Mistry

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