In November 2018, the government published a new framework intended to support employers to record and report voluntarily on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
This recommends that employers voluntarily report more information about their actions on workplace mental health.
The obligation to conduct an audit is on large employers (those with over 250 employees) across all sectors – public, private and voluntary. These large employers must conduct an audit into their workplace mental health.
However, it can also be used by smaller employers who want to drive greater transparency in their organisation. How enthusiastically small employers will take up the framework – which may be perceived as just another bureaucratic task to take up scarce resources – remains to be seen.
However, the benefits for small to medium sized businesses undertaking an audit into their workplace mental health are significant.
What are the benefits of voluntarily reporting information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?
• improve employee engagement and retention, with consequent gains for performance and productivity – engaged employees are less likely to report workplace stress and take fewer days sickness absence
• better understand the experiences of disabled people and people with mental health conditions in your workforce
• better monitor internal progress in building a more inclusive environment for employees
• access a wider pool of talent and skills through promoting inclusive and disability-friendly recruitment, retention and progression policies
• set an industry example in driving a cultural shift towards increased transparency
• better serve and connect with disabled customers and communities, capitalising on spending power
• engage in open and supportive conversations about disabilities and health conditions to help enable employees to remain in work and achieve their potential
How do we conduct an audit?
GoodHR has created an audit form that can be emailed out to staff and then collected in anonymously. Please contact email@example.com if you would like a copy.
What do we do with the information gained from the audit?
It is important that the audit is not simply filed away but the data gathered from it is used constructively. The employer should report back on the audit, to the entire workforce, and include the following:
• the organisational policies that have been implemented or amended in relation to the recruitment and retention of disabled people
• support offered to employees with specific disabilities
• the role of networks and support groups
• progression and pay of disabled people
• workplace adjustments
• employee engagement scores
Also, in relation to mental health and wellbeing, the employer should report back on the following:
• employee take up of mental health support offered by the organisation
• the training offered to employees related to mental health
• the percentage of individuals within the organisation that are comfortable disclosing mental health conditions
For employers who choose to report information publicly, the annual report is advised as the most suitable place.
Transparency with employees
To reassure employees, who may be reluctant to share this sort of information, it is important to:
• state the questions used (on the audit form)
• explain the collection methodology – anonymised or not, depending on what is agreed.
• be transparent with employees about data usage, handling and storage so that they are reassured that the process is fully GDPR compliant.
Conclusion: why is the voluntary reporting framework a useful tool for employers?
Collecting relevant data – for instance around levels of disability employment – can pose a significant challenge for employers.
For this reason, the voluntary audit focuses not just on the publication of numbers, but also more broadly on the shaping and sharing of an organisational narrative which captures how an employer is seeking to support their employees to create an open and supportive culture around managing health at work.