As Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close, we revisit the topic of fostering a mentally healthy workplace all year long. At the beginning of the month, we talked about the first of the four A’s in the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) recently-introduced Mental Health Toolkit: awareness. In this article, we will cover the next three: accommodations, assistance, and access.
It’s crucial to provide employees with mental health conditions the same consideration for accommodations you would apply to employees with physical health conditions. The right modifications can make it possible for an employee to perform their job well, which has clear benefits for the employer as well as the employee. Additionally, many mental health and substance abuse conditions qualify an employee for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so not entering into the ADA interactive process could potentially open the employer up to liability.
Accommodations for employees with behavioral health conditions could include:
- Flexibility in scheduling and/or remote work policies
- Time off, such as use of sick, vacation, or unpaid leave, plus allowances for a couple hours off to attend therapy or other appointments
- Breaks tailored to individual needs
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN) toolkit: Accommodating Employees with Mental Health Impairments
- DOL Office of Disability Employment Policy: Accommodations for Employees with Psychiatric Disabilities
Offering an employee assistance program (EAP), funded by the employer, can go a long way toward helping employees understand that their emotional wellbeing is important to the employer. EAPs can help employees with mental health issues, no matter how big or small, get started on the path to recovery. Whether they are struggling with stress, life transitions, or serious mental health or addiction problems, an EAP counselor can confidentially assist the employee.
EAPs have changed over the years, from an original focus on substance abuse to a more encompassing view of wellness. Studies have shown that in companies of all sizes, they lead to increased productivity as well as reduced healthcare costs, turnover, and absenteeism.
- Center for Workplace Mental Health toolkit: Employee Assistance Programs
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Providing Support
Access to mental health treatment is a barrier to many people. If your company offers health benefits, take a close look at the mental health coverage included with the policy and determine if a different plan may be a more effective option when it’s time to renew it. It’s important that treatment be affordable and available enough for employees to actually use it.
Factors to consider include the plan’s:
- Prescription medicine coverage for psychiatric drugs
- Copayments or coinsurance for inpatient and outpatient care
- Availability of in-network behavioral health providers near where employees live
- Case management for members with severe mental illness
- Center for Workplace Mental Health toolkit: Working Well
- Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services fact sheet: Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
How Can ThinkHR Help?
ThinkHR customers can visit Comply for comprehensive information on administering leave, health and welfare benefits, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Need advice on how to best provide accommodations, assistance, or access to an employee who could benefit from mental health or substance abuse care? Talk to one of our expert Live advisors.