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The Key to Job Satisfaction: Prioritize Employee Mental Health Says the FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is taking into account employee mental health. The pandemic brought mental health challenges to the forefront, forcing companies to offer better support to employees across all levels of the organization.

The Harvard Business Review reported that in 2019, employers grasped just how prevalent mental issues are and that companies need to address the stigma associated with it while offering practical solutions. In 2020, it was evident to everyone that tackling mental health issues is a true business imperative.

fmla for mental health

Investing in nurturing employee mental health is beneficial for the employer and the employee.

Employee Mental Health Awareness

Many employees left their jobs in the last two years, as they faced mental health issues like burnout. The American Psychiatric Association reported that depression alone costs the US economy more than $210 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity. People with anxiety and depression also tend to develop other physical illnesses over time.

Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report of 1,500 US workers in full-time jobs revealed that employee mental health issues have been a major cause of attrition. Sixty-eight percent of millennials and nearly 81% of Gen Zers left their jobs, voluntarily or involuntarily for mental health reasons. More employees are actively seeking leave for mental health treatment.

It is still difficult to admit that one needs leave for mental health treatment as people are often exposed to the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Only 49% admitted that they received positive responses or support after talking about their mental health issues.

In another study by Corporate Wellness Magazine, it was found that 84% of workers surveyed experienced at least one mental health challenge over the past year ranging from burnout to PTSD.

Employers have started taking note of employee mental health challenges and have started launching policies and programs to support mental health and wellness in the workplace. Equality, diversity, and inclusion training also help support employee mental health.

The FMLA Provisions

The FMLA acknowledges that a chronic condition whether physical or mental may cause occasional periods when an individual is unable to work is a qualifying serious health condition if it requires treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year and recurs over an extended period of time.  Treatment visits and therapy sessions for a condition that substantially limits an individual’s ability to work are covered under this act.

The Department of Labor (DOL) released two guidance documents to help employers and employees understand what is covered under the FMLA. The FMLA for mental health lays down the provisions for employees seeking leave for mental health treatment.

“While many people coping with mental illness may face barriers to treatment including social stigmas, a lack of available services or financial resources, the US Department of Labor is determined to ensure that obtaining job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act is not another obstacle to overcome when workers seek the mental health support they need,” the agency stated in the release. The DOL also clarified that employers with 50 or more employees must provide workers with 12 weeks of unpaid leaves annually to address their own or a family members’ condition.

The agency also stated that “an employer may require an employee to submit a certification from a health care provider to support the employee’s need for FMLA leave.” However, a diagnosis is not required while applying for the leave. The DOL reiterated that mental health is generally covered by law but employers must prioritize mental health and wellness in the workplace for employees to thrive.

Furthermore, organizations must train managers and executives to offer the right kind of support and help employees take advantage of mental services offered by the employer. A psychologically safe workplace helps foster trust and in turn contributes to productivity while minimizing job stress.

Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

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