Mental health: what you should do, what you must do and what you can’t do…

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 11, 2024 10:46

Mental health is your state of emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel and act. It will fluctuate through your life and define how you handle stress, relate to others and make choices.

But in a work context, we really only ever talk about mental ill health.

The first issue with mental health is that it’s not always visible, yet with one in four people experiencing mental ill health issues every year, the chances are that there is a mental health issue closer than you think.

Let’s start with the legal side of things…

Mental health can be defined as a disability, which under the Equality Act 2010, is a condition that affects your day to day life on a long term basis, usually for 12 months or more.

Mental health conditions

There is no definitive list, but some of the more common conditions you may come into contact with are depression, stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide.

Depression, which can lead to suicide, is particularly relevant to the gender bias in the golf industry because 74.3 percent of the 5,016 suicides in 2022-23 in the UK were males. Suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 and 49 in the UK. A lot of your staff, particularly greenkeepers, and a significant number of your members are in that group.

Spot the signs of mental ill health

The earlier you become aware that a team member is experiencing mental ill health, the sooner steps can be taken to prevent it from becoming more serious and provide support to help them during this period.

You should never make assumptions, but signs of mental ill health often include changes to their normal / previous behaviour. They can include:

• Changes in usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues.

• Changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks.

• Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed.

• Changes in appetite and / or an increase in smoking and drinking.

• Increase in sickness absence and / or turning up late to work.

• Working long hours, longer than they should need to get the job done (such as emails at 2am) – this is not just a disability discrimination case; working time infringements are a risk as well.

• Coming to you in tears, saying that they feel overwhelmed. This one is a bit of a giveaway, but some managers feel that they can’t cope with anyone in tears and aren’t able to say anything more than telling them to ‘pull themselves together’, which, strangely, does not have the desired effect.

If an employee comes to you, how should you handle it?

Firstly, don’t make any comparisons, either to yourself or others, for example ‘I’ve had that, and I could cope at work’, or ‘My sister was diagnosed with that, and it was awful’. The better and more helpful question is: ‘How are you feeling right now?’

Next, don’t make jokes about the employee’s condition, try to laugh it off, or lighten the situation, such as ‘so you’re a bit wobbly at the moment then?’ or ‘You can be our resident nutter’.
The better approach is to listen without interrupting and then ask: ‘What do you need from me / us right now?’ and ‘Is there anything else I / we can do to support you?’

Ignorance is no excuse

Once you’ve been told about a mental ill health condition, don’t ignore it. Ask the employee for more information, that is, have they been to their GP, are they on medication, how long is the condition likely to last and are they seeing a counsellor?

Also, check in with the employee on a routine basis. I would suggest weekly, but agree this with the employee – they may prefer daily or less frequently.

Tip 1. If the employee hasn’t seen a medical professional and you’re worried about them, you can say, ‘I can’t force you to go to your GP – it’s your choice – but I would urge you to do so’.

Tip 2. Where the employee’s mental health condition is, or could potentially be long term, you must consider whether any adjustments are necessary and make all those that are reasonable, for example time off to see a counsellor. Always discuss the employee’s needs with them and keep this under review. Make sure that you keep notes of all of these discussions and supportive measures that have been put in place.

How to deal with long term sickness absence on the grounds of mental ill health

There are several things to make sure happen:

1. All employees are required to provide a Fit Note (sick note) for any sickness absence so that the absence is authorised and is paid accordingly. They can self-certify for the first seven calendar days, but after that, they need a GP’s note.

2. If the GP says they are not fit for work and suffering, such as from depression, legally, you are not allowed to question that diagnosis. However, you can ask officially for more information about the illness from the GP or occupational health. You will need to get the employee’s written consent to do so. An email is not enough.

3. Don’t wait till the employee has been off for six months before you do anything. Start the wheels in motion from four weeks onwards.

4. Once the employee feels that they may be able to come back, but not full-time, offer a phased return, maybe a few hours a day or just a couple of days a week, building up to their original hours.

Remember – mental ill health is not contagious!

For advice on any staff or member issue affecting your golf club, please contact Carolyne Wahlen, Golf HR, on or 01491 598 700


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 11, 2024 10:46
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