Mental Health Policy

1. Policy Intent

 At the Forward Institute we believe that our mental health is as important as our physical health, and that an equal level of focus should be given to mental health procedures as we would to physical sickness and safety at work procedures. We aim to promote a culture of participation, equality and fairness, where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, and bullying is not tolerated. We aim to provide a supportive working environment that is seen as a safe space for all team members, contractors, fellows and anyone else with whom we work.

2. Mental Health at Work

We recognise that work plays an important role in our mental health and wellbeing. It keeps us physically and mentally active, provides social contact and support, allows us to develop and use skills, gives us social status, meaning, a sense of identity and personal achievement, and provides a way for us to structure and occupy our time. However it can also makes us unwell. Mental health issues can manifest in the workplace regardless of working conditions, and affect our state of mind. The most common mental health issues include depression, stress and anxiety which may result in burnout and mental health breakdowns. Substance abuse may also perpetuate mental health issues.

2.1. Factors that cause mental health issues

Mental health issues can be caused or exacerbated by a variety of reasons; some that as a business we cannot control, and some that may be work- related, including:

>       Job insecurity

>       Excessive pressure

>       Work-life balance

>       Lack of appreciation

>       Hostile workplace conditions

>       Unsatisfactory job or workload

>       Unpleasant relationships with colleagues or managers

>       Working environment

We aim to provide a supportive working environment that does not cause such work related mental health issues, and to identify any issues that could contribute to mental health problems proactively and resolve them. We also aim to be an inclusive and open working environment where team members can raise any work related issues they believe are affecting their or others’ mental health in order that we can resolve these issues as a business. Annually we will specifically ask for feedback on this in our team survey. However, at any time, should you believe any of our working practices are causing risk to your, or others’ mental health please raise this with your line manager, or, if more appropriate, with the Head of Operations and Finance (Jess), or our Mental Health Champion (Mills).

We aim to have a flexible work environment where you are able to work in the way that enables you to work at your best. This might include working different hours to those in your contract (for example if you prefer to work earlier or later), or working away from office distractions on occasions. Please discuss options with your line manager regarding reasonable patterns of working in ways that allows you to focus properly and support your wellbeing.

2.2. Mental Health issues outside of the Forward Institute’s control

>  Support employees who face mental health problems

>  Create an inclusive and pleasant working environment that is seen as a safe space for all staff, contractors, fellows and anyone else with whom we work.

> Consider flexible working practices for those who would benefit from this

>  Provide Health Insurance with Vitality for all team members beyond their probation which includes some cover for your psychological wellbeing.

3. Open communication and support at work

 We aim to promote a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged, and support and mutual respect are the norm. We hope to encourage an ethos whereby team members know it is ok to talk about mental health, that it is safe to disclose their experiences, and to recommend changes we may make to working practices to support them to do their job in a better way for themselves. In our aim to be a supportive work place, two team members have completed a mental health first aid course: Jess in her role as Head of Finance and Operations, and Mills as our Mental Health Champion. If you have any concerns at all regarding your mental health, or the impact it may be having on your work or your personal life, we hope you will feel comfortable discussing this with whomever you feel is most appropriate between your manager, Mills or Jess.

3.1.  Mental Health champion

 Camilla Upson (Mills) is the Forward Institute Mental Health Champion. The role of the mental health champion is three-fold:

  1. To be mindful of the team’s general state and proactively reach out to anyone in the team who is showing signs of stress or other common mental health issues

  2. To be available for team members to approach so that they can talk to about any mental health issues they have

  3. To raise any general concerns to Jess about working conditions or ways in which we might improve our working environment to support our team’s general mental health

 As Mental Health Champion, Mills will be available at any reasonable time to discuss any mental health concerns or queries you may have. She is not there to provide professional advice as all mental health issues, and all people are different; but she will provide support by:

>  Approaching people in the team sporadically to check how they are feeling in general

>  Listening to any concerns team members have, confidentially

>  Providing guidance as to the external support that may be available

> Providing guidance as to how to manage any concerns you have with regards to the impact on your work

>  Being available to attend any meetings you wish to have with your Line Manager or the Head of Operations to talk about a mental health issue, as a support to you

>  Being a confidante and someone to talk to in a safe space, non-judgementally

2.3.  Confidentiality

Conversations with your Mental Health Champion, or any team member, regarding mental health issues should be on a confidential basis.

In the event that what is discussed will, or has, seriously impacted the business, you will be encouraged to speak to your manager in order that the issue may be resolved before becoming more serious. If you come forward with such issues yourself (or after encouragement), we will recognise this bravery whilst we help resolve the issue. Only in the event that the potential issue could seriously damage the business, and if you choose not to come forward yourself to your Line Manager in a timely fashion, your Mental Health Champion will be obligated to raise the issue on your behalf.

3.3.  Managers responsibilities

 Managers should proactively try to recognise any mental health issues amongst their team and should reach out to anyone who they believe is in a state of emotional or psychological distress. If the individual’s issues are related to a work matter, or can be made easier through a work related action, they should consider ways to resolve the issue in conjunction with the employee. If the individual does not wish to discuss the matter with them, the manager should encourage them to speak to the Mental Health Champion, or, if appropriate, a mental health professional.

 There are additional resources to support line managers in managing a team member with mental ill health. This includes advice on:

>  Identifying early warning signs of mental ill health

>  How to talk with a team member about their mental ill health

>  Keeping in touch during sickness absence

> Returning to work and reasonable adjustments.

Please speak to Jess or Mills for these additional resources if required. Additionally we encourage all line managers to attend a one day mental health first aid training course.

4. Procedures for a team member being off sick with mental ill health

Mental ill health should be treated similarly to physical ill health from a sickness perspective. If you are ill, whether physically or mentally, you should inform your line manager as soon as possible, and where possible let them know when you expect to be able to return to work. Please continue to keep them updated, if the illness lasts longer than expected. If you are off work sick for more than 5 days, you will need to provide a Doctor’s note.

You will be paid your normal salary for the first 5 days of your illness; after that you will be paid statutory sick pay.

5. Being an advocate for mental health awareness

Beyond our commitment to our team members, as an organisation focused on responsible business, we want to raise mental health awareness and combat the stigmas associated with this. To do this, we will:

> Maintain mental health as a core topic of our programme

> Host Discovery Sessions and other events centred on mental health

>  Encourage and support team members to become advocates for mental health.