August 16, 2022

The Importance of Mental Health for Your Employees

By Paul Bieber

You’ve instituted many health and safety rules at work. After all, as glass and metal workers, the dangers are right in front of us daily. In fact, you have not had a reportable accident in over a year. You are all set.

Except this: You have an ex-employee file a worker’s comp claim for mental health issues and the claim is huge. It seems this employee, let’s call him “Will,” was cut a couple of months back, got a bandage from the first-aid kit and went back to work.

You didn’t think anything of this. Folks get small cuts all the time and do what Will did — wash it and put on a bandage. Except Will’s work effort has since gone downhill. He is coming to work late and has taken random vacation days.

You mentioned his attitude to him a couple of times and his response has always been, “What do you mean? I am a great employee!” This went on and after a couple more warnings you had to let Will go. You never understood why he turned into a weak employee.

You soon learn the truth when his worker’s comp claim surfaces claiming mental stress and fear of working with glass. The claim states that he was afraid of getting seriously cut. He didn’t know it himself until he went for unemployment and the intake person recommended that he see a mental health counselor. The comp claim followed.

You never considered that this was possible, even though your company’s medical insurance covers mental health problems just the same as cuts and flu shots. In fact, just about all medical insurances cover mental health. Mental health problems affect about 7% of the U.S. working population. Most often these problems are not work-related, such as family problems.

As an employer, you should realize that mental health is no longer a problem to keep hidden. It is a health issue. If you deny this or don’t allow an employee to schedule an appointment, or make fun of it, you are in line to be sued. I can tell you that there’s a good chance that you will lose that suit.

I had an issue while working, unrelated to my job. I spoke with a professional and worked through my problem so that it did not impact my work life. My company’s medical insurance covered it.

So, be aware if an employee’s work suffers. They might be experiencing a mental health issue. Gently discuss this with the employee. Lay out the insurance benefits that you offer and see if this rings a bell. Hopefully, you will salvage a good employee.

If you don’t have a medical insurance plan for your company, consider this: Surveys show that a strong medical insurance plan is the number one benefit that job applicants look for when changing work environments.