Your duties as an employer

Advice about your duties in supporting the mental health of your apprentices and other employees.

When you become aware that an employee has a mental health difficulty, it's important to support them. It's crucial to have a culture where people feel they can have compassionate, supportive conversations.

There will be times where you'll need to be more structured in your approach. This helps ensure that your organisation is fulfilling its role and its legal duties.

Fulfilling duties to your organisation 

As well as a desire to support wellbeing, you also have a responsibility to ensure that:

  • people are attending work or training

  • the required work is completed to an acceptable standard

  • people are working safely

Your responsibilities to your employees

You're also responsible under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that people who experience mental health difficulties are not discriminated against at work. These are the core responsibilities.

  1. Employers must ensure they do not discriminate against people due to mental health difficulties.

  2. You must aim to reduce the impact of a person’s health condition on their ability to work. You also have to ensure they're getting the right support at work.

  3. Simple workplace changes can often allow people to work productively. These are called 'reasonable adjustments'. You have a duty to consider them if you know a person is experiencing a mental health difficulty. This means adjustments that are effective for an employee but not too disruptive, costly, or impractical to provide.

  4. Many people with mental health conditions might not consider themselves to be disabled. But their condition might be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This would happen if it has a substantial impact on their day-to-day life over a long period.

Whether the Equality Act applies or not, it's good practice for employers to make reasonable adjustments to support staff.

Creating a Wellness Action Plan 

If an apprentice experiences mental health difficulties, it's very helpful to create a detailed plan about:

  • what they need from you

  • what you can reasonably provide to support them

A Wellness Action Plan (WAP) set outs how any difficulties with mental health are affecting work. It details what the person and you as their employer can do to help with this.

This provides support and helps to be clear in writing that you're doing everything possible to support the person. It helps meet your duties arising from the Equality Act.

What a Wellness Action Plan should cover

A WAP should cover areas including:

  • approaches the person will take and behaviours they can adopt to support 

    their mental wellbeing

  • early warning signs of poor mental health that their manager or supervisor can look out for

  • any workplace triggers for poor mental health or stress

  • potential impact of poor mental health on performance, if any

  • what support the person needs from their line manager

  • actions and positive steps the person and the manager will take if they experience stress or poor mental health

  • an agreed time to review the WAP and support measures that are in place to see if it's working

  • anything else that would be useful in supporting the person's mental health

You can get a guide for line managers to help you implement Wellness Action Plans across your team on the Mind website.

You can also download a Mind Wellness Plan guide for employees.

What apprentices said

Providing support doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. We asked some apprentices about how their employer has supported them at work. The things they found useful included:

  • a friendly ear to listen to their problems

  • weekly catch-ups with their manager

  • a wellbeing section in the company app or intranet

  • online resources about wellbeing

  • encouragement to take regular breaks

  • designated mental health officers or champions in the workplace

Explore the rest of our Mental Health resource

What are mental health difficulties?

What we mean by mental health difficulties and how you can help apprentices at work.

A healthy working environment

Creating and maintaining a healthy working environment benefits employees at all levels.

Supporting employees around suicide

It's important to know how to support employees at risk of suicide. Find information and links here.

Supporting employees who self-harm

Find out how to support staff who are, or may be, self-harming.

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.

Further support

Support for you - apprenticeships 2 432 x 288

We are grateful to mental health charity Penumbra for providing advice and information on mental health for this resource. If any of your apprentices or other employees need support, you should encourage them to contact a GP or professional mental-health support organisation. Find support organisations for mental health

Mental Health resource for apprentices

We've also pulled together a companion resource for apprentices. This is a good first place to guide people to if you're worried about their mental health.

View Mental Health at Work - a resource for apprentices