Business owners know that companies have a responsibility to promote the health and wellness of their employees. What may be less clear, however, is how far that extends beyond physical health and into the realm of mental health.

While establishing wellness programs and encouraging healthy lifestyles are simple enough for maintaining a hale and hearty workforce, many companies struggle to achieve the same level of involvement – or in many cases even awareness – when it comes to issues of mental health.

Employees struggle to be heard
Despite the recent push to encourage employee wellness on a corporate level, as well as a zeitgeist of diversity, acceptance and inclusivity that more organizations are adopting, there is an ongoing struggle for people with chronic mental health issues to receive the awareness and accommodation they need. One major issue that is as difficult to pin down as it is important to overcome is that of stigma associated with mental health concerns. Human Resource Executive Online reported that a recent survey found unencouraging results regarding how businesses are working – or not – to overcome mental health stigma. Some 41 percent of respondents indicated they didn’t feel their company had improved in this area, while 24 percent felt like the air of mental health stigma in their workplace had actually gotten worse over the past two years.

What is the employer’s role?
Companies are already familiar with the accommodations they’re required to make according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. What may be less clear is how that translates to accommodating issues of mental illness. The act states that employers must provide reasonable accommodation to workers with disabilities, including altering the amount of work or manner in which it’s carried out. For staff with physical disabilities that can be something as concrete as offering additional equipment to assist with carrying out job-related duties, but the invisible nature of mental illness makes it more difficult to understand and, by extension, to accommodate.

The definitions and wording laid out by the ADA are ambiguous, designed to offer flexibility. However that same flexibility may also fail to provide the rigid foundation some employers may need to remain in compliance with government regulations. PEO companies are staffed with trained HR professionals who can help business owners better understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to disability accommodation so that a policy can be enacted that is beneficial for all parties involved.