Acas launches guidance on COVID workplace mental health

Acas has published new guidance to help businesses manage mental health in the workplace during the current pandemic.

It comes after a new Acas-commissioned YouGov survey found that nearly two out of five employees working from home felt stressed, anxious or experienced mental health difficulties.

To help you manage your team’s wellbeing during this crisis, we have summarised the Acas guidance below.

How can staff manage their mental health?

Whether staff are working from home, returning to the workplace or on furlough, employers have a responsibility to ensure their welfare needs are met.

Staff may be finding it hard to cope and be suffering a decline in mental health and wellbeing due to longer hours, social isolation, childcare responsibilities or work pressure.

Where a staff member has an existing mental health problem it’s important that they talk to their manager about how they’re feeling, so that extra support can be offered.

Staff can improve their mental health by:

  • staying in contact with people
  • creating a daily routine to manage their time
  • keeping active and exercising
  • reflecting on what helps them feel positive and what does not.

Encourage staff to talk to their manager

Acas advises that staff members talk to their manager or employer regularly about their situation and how they are coping. Employers should, in turn, help them to work through any problems.

It is advised that employers discuss with staff what kind of contact they would prefer to ensure it meets the needs of their team, this could include regular calls, video conferencing or even having online social events.

Back to the workplace

Staff returning to a place of work outside their home should discuss any concerns around how health and safety that could affect their mental wellbeing. Managers should take these concerns into consideration and be supportive, wherever possible.

Employer support

Employees should check with their employer what support is available if they have concerns about their mental health.

Employers must remember that they have a ‘duty of care’ to all employees, regardless of where they are working. This means that they must do all they reasonably can to support their staff members’ health, safety and wellbeing.

In some workplaces this may mean offering counselling, often through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), appointing a mental health ‘champion’ or working with other organisations to create a mental health support group.


Mental health issues can be considered a disability under the law if all of the following apply:

  • it has a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on the life of an employee
  • it lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to
  • it affects their ability to do their normal day-to-day activities.

This applies even if there are not symptoms all of the time or the symptoms are less severe at some times than at others.

Employers must be careful not to discriminate against a person because of a mental health disability, as it is a protected characteristic. Instead, they should work with employees to make appropriate adjustments to working arrangements for them. 

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