Talking to your employer about mental health

Advice about talking to your employer or learning provider to get mental health support.

Talking to your employer about mental health

This advice is about talking to your employer about your work. Remember that you can also speak to your learning provider about support for the qualification part of your apprenticeship, too.

Are you finding it hard to talk?

Being able to talk openly about what is going on for you is almost always the best way to get support and start moving past the current challenges. Employers can be a good source of support and knowing what is going on for you helps them to help you.

Do you have to tell your employer about a mental health difficulty?

You don't have to tell your employer about a mental health difficulty, but it is very important if:

  • it is starting to cause any difficulties at work, e.g. due to being off sick or because work is falling behind

  • you work in area where a mental health difficulty could affect your own or others’ safety. (For example, if you drive a lot for work and you are not sleeping well or you are taking medications that affect your concentration.)

Even if the above don’t apply, it's usually more helpful to be open about any mental health difficulties with employers.

It's now recognised that employers need to be aware of mental health and to support staff. Most will have a very sympathetic and supportive approach to staff who are experiencing difficulties.

Employers also have legal responsibilities to act fairly and reasonably.

Before you chat to your employer

If you want to talk to your employer about your mental health, here are some things to consider doing first.

  1. Identify someone to talk to who you feel comfortable with. Hopefully this will be your manager but if not, see if there is someone else who you would feel able to approach.

  2. Check to see if your company has organisational policies about mental health. Many will have supportive policies which say how the organisation should support people experiencing mental health difficulties.

  3. If your company has a Human Resources (HR) department, it may be helpful to ask for a confidential discussion with them. They can give you advice about how your employer can support you. This may be especially helpful if you do not feel able to discuss things with a manager at first.

  4. Many companies support staff through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This can include counselling, money advice and much more. These can be a great source of support and are usually free and completely confidential. Your HR department can give you details.

Preparing for discussion

When you are getting ready to discuss your mental health with your employer, there are some useful things you can do to prepare.

  1. Write down the issues you are facing in your mental health and how they affect you. See 'Approaching your employer about your mental health', below.

  2. Try to let the person know in advance that you wish to discuss your mental health. You can ask for a private space and enough time for talking. This will allow the person to come to the meeting prepared and ready to help.

  3. If you have discussed matters with your GP or another medical professional, you could summarise their views and what support they are providing.

  4. Think about what you are comfortable sharing and if there are any areas you would prefer to keep private.

  5. If you feel your mental health is affecting work, try and be honest about this and describe the ways it is making things difficult.

  6. Think what support you would find helpful. For example: Do you need some time off? Are there aspects of the job that are particularly challenging where you need more support? Could your employer check in with you regularly to help you to plan and feel on top of things? If things are tough outside of work, could your employer help?

Approaching your employer about your mental health

It can be helpful to work through these questions to help you approach a conversation about your mental health. You could copy them into a document, then simply add your answers and you'll have a plan for talking to your employer.

  1. What are my hopes for discussing my mental health with my employer? What would I like to come out of the discussion?

  2. Who in my organisation do I feel comfortable to discuss this with? For example, Human Resources, my supervisor, some colleagues?

  3. How will I feel most comfortable sharing this? A note from my GP, in person, in writing?

  4. What information do I want to share? Is there anything I want to keep private?

  5. What support do I want from my employer? Understanding, help, adjustments?

Your employer has a duty to help you and support your mental health.

Find out more about how your employer can help

Read our useful guides

In partnership with mental health charity Penumbra we have compiled 2 guides to accompany this web resource. These will help you to find ways to talk to your employer and support your own mental health at work. View PDF guide Mental Health and Wellbeing Support for Apprentices

View PDF guide Looking after Mental Health at Work

Explore the rest of our Mental Health resource

What is mental health?

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.

What are mental health difficulties?

What we mean by mental health difficulties and what can help at work.

Looking after your mental health at work

Work can often help our mental wellbeing. However, sometimes work brings pressures which add to mental health problems.

How can your employer help you?

Employers have legal duties around mental health and can support you in many ways.

Go to start of resource

You'll find links to the other parts of the resource as well as a list of mental health support organisations.

Support for you - apprenticeships 2 432 x 288

If you need support

We're grateful to mental health charity Penumbra for providing advice and information on mental health for this resource. If you need support, you should contact your GP or professional mental-health support organisation.

You can find mental health organisations at the start of this resource.