Anxiety in the workplace


Employers should strive to create the conditions for good Mental Health and Wellbeing. Part of this is to raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma associated with mental illness, promote good mental health of all staff and an open organisational culture.

It is in an employer’s interest to:

  • Improve mental health awareness.
  • Tackle the causes of work-related mental ill health.
  • Create a workplace culture where staff feel able to talk about their mental health.
  • Support staff who are experiencing mental ill health.

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this week (15 to 21 May 2023). The official theme for this year, as set by the Mental Health Foundation, is ‘anxiety’.

What is anxiety?

The Mental Health Foundation describes Anxiety as,

“Anxiety can affect us physically and mentally. If you are feeling anxious, you might notice your heart rate increasing, headaches, loss of appetite, breathlessness or chest pain. Anxiety might make you feel tense or nervous, find it hard to relax, feel tearful or have problems sleeping and concentrating. Friends or family might notice you are more irritable than usual, or more withdrawn. Or perhaps you seem fine on the outside but feel panicky inside”.

It goes on to say that,

“Lots of things can lead to feelings of anxiety, including exam pressures, relationships, starting a new job (or losing one) or other big life events. We can also get anxious when it comes to things to do with money and not being able to meet our basic needs, like heating our home or buying food. But anxiety can be made easier to manage”.

Dealing with anxiety

The Mental Health Foundation recommends contacting your GP if anxiety is severely affecting your everyday life.

Whilst dealing with anxiety can be hard, there are some things we can do to manage these tough feelings including breathing exercises and the use of grounding techniques. Other tips in coping with anxiety include, talking to someone, listening to music, physical exercise, keeping a diary and eating a healthy diet. More information can be found on the Mental Health Foundation website.

It may also mean taking action to address a specific cause of anxiety. For example, contacting a money advisor if you are anxious about your financial situation. In the employment context, a specific action might be discussing workplace stress with your employer, or seeking legal support if you are experiencing harassment, discrimination or bullying.

Our employment team is recognised as one of the leading teams in Essex for employees wanting legal advice on discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Employers have a duty of care to protect the physical health of their employees as well as their mental health. Individuals who may be suffering from anxiety or depression may well classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010. Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to remove or reduce the disadvantages related to someone’s disability.

ACAS states that mental health problems can:

  • happen suddenly, because of a specific event in someone’s life
  • build up gradually over time
  • be hard to spot because everyone has different signs and signals
  • be hidden because many people find it difficult to talk about their mental health
  • fluctuate over time which means that an employee’s ability to cope with the demands of the job might change

When making reasonable adjustments for mental health it’s helpful to remember that:

  • every job is different, so what works in one situation might not work in another
  • every employee is different, so what works for one employee might not work for another
  • mental health fluctuates over time, so what works for an
  • employee now might not work in the future

Employers and employees should work together to agree and review reasonable adjustments over time to make sure that the adjustments work well”.

Employers should support and train managers so that they can deal with mental health in the workplace in a sensitive and supportive way. Ideally, employers should have a mental health and wellbeing policy and larger organisations should consider mental health first aiders along with mental health champions.

How Pinney Talfourd can help

Our employment team is available to help both employers and employees regarding mental health in the workplace. Please do not hesitate Alex Pearce, Head of our Employment team.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Alex Pearce, Senior Associate in the Employment Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of May 2023



Alex Pearce

Senior Associate

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