Human Resources

Avoiding Misuse of Mental Health Accommodations

In a couple of previous posts, we started a discussion around challenges facing HR professionals with respect to dealing with mental health disorders in the workplace.mental health

In the first post, we discussed the increased visibility of mental health issues generally and touched briefly on two competing challenges facing HR professionals when it comes to mental health issues in the workplace.

The first is the issue of identifying mental health disorders that might trigger a required accommodation. The second is the issue of potential misuse of accommodations meant to address mental health disorders. In our last post, we covered the first issue. Here, we look at the second.

Rachel Shaw, principal consultant and president of Shaw HR Consulting, suggests the following practices for organizations as they take steps to address mental health issues:

Use Your EAP

Many companies have an existing employee assistance program (EAP) that can be a very useful tool for helping to address mental health issues. These can be a powerful resource to help address any issues, providing access to skilled clinicians trained to address a wide range of mental health issues and ensuring privacy and confidentiality for employees.

Ask the Right Questions

Shaw suggests using specific establishing questions to help identify potential issues:

  • Is this a mental illness or a mental health (wellness) matter?
  • Is this a disciplinary issue?
  • What was the trigger?
  • What can an employee expect?
  • What does the employee need to do?
  • What will you do?

Additionally, Shaw suggests the use of a medical supplemental questionnaire to get more detailed information from an employee’s doctor if necessary. Obviously, standard employee privacy concerns need to be taken into account.

Documentation

Any issues related to a potential mental health concern should be documented by the employee’s manager and/or HR. This serves as a record in case issues related to the veracity of a claim of a mental health condition surface down the road.

Mental health disorders have increasingly and appropriately been treated as no different from bodily health issues. However, HR professionals still face challenges when dealing with mental health issues in the workplace.