COUNCILLORS have approved a new mental health and wellbeing policy for Shetland Islands Council as figures show that the issue has accounted for the most days lost to staff absence in recent years.
The policy has existed since 2002 and council officials have sought to refresh the guidelines in areas like how management can handle staff dealing with mental health difficulties.
The revised policy was given the green light at the council’s policy and resources committee on Monday morning.
Mental health and behaviour accounted for around one quarter of days lost to absences in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Last year there were 353 referrals to the staff welfare officer, over 70 per cent of which were self referrals, with a range of support given such as mediation, life coaching, sign posting to other agencies and counselling.
Following discussions with trade union representatives it was agreed that the council’s policy was no longer fit for purpose due to changes in legislative framework and best practice guidance.
South mainland councillor George Smith said a policy refresh was “absolutely what we need”.
He added, however, that he looked forward to the day when there was no separate mental health policy and rather a compete health policy where mental and physical issues were treated with parity.
Fellow south member Robbie McGregor agreed, saying that Smith’s comments were “spot on”.
The mental health and wellbeing policy shows how the council can support employees, such as through “supportive line management, consideration of adjustments and access to free counselling support.”.
It adds that the local authority seeks to “promote a culture and environment in which mental wellbeing and resilience are encouraged and supported”.
“This means that employees will feel safe to disclose a mental health condition or concerns, feeling confident that they will be supported and that reasonable adjustments will be considered with an open mind and made wherever possible,” it continues.