Employees' mental health should be prioritized by companies, psychologist says

Isay Reyes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 22 2020 12:39 AM

MANILA — Employees who have mental health issues should not be terminated from their employment unless his or her condition is proven to pose a risk to co-employees and within the company, psychologist Riyan Portuguez said in an online talk on mental health Wednesday night. 

“That’s a form of discrimination unless a competent medical authority is able to assess and certify that his or her condition poses a threat or risk to other employees within the company,” she said. 

“Kung walang competent medical authority na nagsasabi na yung kaniyang condition ay may threat sa mga kasama niya at sa workplace, hindi siya pwede i-terminate because that's a form of discrimination,” she added. 

If and when this happens, an employee should not be afraid to file a formal complaint to the Department of Labor and Employment against the employer. 

Based on DOLE’s department order 208 released in February of this year, companies should formulate mental health policies to ensure their employees' welfare. The absence of such puts them in a position where they could be sanctioned by the labor department. 

Republic Act 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Act and RA 11058 mandate workplaces to create mental health programs for their employees. 

Companies should be proactive in making sure that their employees’ mental health is given attention. 

The workplaces should have information dissemination like psychoeducation, providing webinars, capacity building, advocacy, and others like compensation and benefits that address mental health concerns. 

Employees are also required to actively engage as employees to follow the guidelines set by the labor department. 

“Sila rin as employees hindi nila dapat ine-enable yung harrassment, discrimination or any form of this in their workplace kasi dito dapat safe and inclusie yung environment,” Portuguez said. 

There is also assured confidentiality when it comes to mental health concerns. 

“Hindi allowed na i-disclose ang information ng isang employee pag siya ay may mental health problem unless kakailanganin yun,” Portuguez said. 

Faced with financial limitations brought by the coronavirus pandemic, if small and medium businesses find it hard to implement big programs for their employees' mental wellbeing, Portuguez said, companies should start to set the culture where leaders show that mental health is important. 

"Have a mental health support group within the company and start having a culture of respect and open & honest communication amongst others," she said. 

“May ibang companies na nag a-outsource sila ng psychosocial services, less cost yun sa part nila. Pwede rin outsource services to provide talks by professionals once or twice a month,” she added. 

Mental health affects performance and productivity and now more than ever, employees who go through unending anxiety should feel that there is a sense of security in one's company. 

"Marami talaga na magaling magtago ng problema, hindi mo naman makikita agad,” Portuguez said. 

Ryx Nabos, leader of Procter & Gamble's Vibrant Living Program, shared their companies’ best practices. 

“Since day 1 of the pandemic, we have decided to be a force for good and a force for growth,” he said. 

P&G proactively addresses concerns of employees through open communication, he said, adding that proper, clear, and constant communication are keys to address potential causes of anxieties in their employees. 

“Given the uncertainty of COVID, marami yung nase-stress about financial concerns so we also invite speakers on financial wellness for talks and they talk about how to build one’s contingency funds, how to manage finances during the pandemic,” he said. 

P&G also has a long-term illness leave that also applies to mental health and a hotline that can be accessed by the employees who need to express or share what they are going through. 

“Maraming pwedeng gawin pero it all starts with the culture. Kailangan we sincerely call out that we take care of our people and make them our number 1 priority,” Nabos said. 

“Hindi kailangan ng malalaking activities o programa. Just by seeing na 'yung company has a culture that accepts mental health as a reality, malaking bagay na yun for the employees because they feel that they are in a safe environment,” he added.