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Employee handbook

Positive about mental health policy


At the Parliament, our values underpin the way in which we act and behave. By applying these values to our work practices, we aim to promote a positive and healthy workplace culture, where open and honest communication is encouraged, and mutual respect is the norm. This policy complies with meeting the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body’s (SPCB) Health and Safety legal duties as an employer and has been reviewed against good employment practice guidelines.

Read our values

Who is this policy for?

It applies to all MSPs, MSPs’ staff, SPCB and staff employed by the SPCB.

Why is it important?

Colleagues may experience mental health conditions for various reasons that are connected to circumstances outside of work. Some staff will have a pre-existing or mental health condition when recruited or may develop one caused by factors relating to their personal life.

Colleagues who experience long-term mental health conditions can thrive at work, with the right support and working environment.

We know that getting support at an early stage is important and to achieve this staff will be managed in a way that is not detrimental to their mental health. An adjustments process allows individuals to have the right support in place to manage their condition at work.

There are also work-related reasons which can impact on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing, including:

  • excessive work pressures
  • work-life imbalance
  • feeling devalued or undermined by a colleague or manager
  • workload
  • job satisfaction

We work in a highly complex, political and scrutinised environment which can sometimes put pressures on colleagues. Issues like a lack of control and a demanding role can contribute to changes in individual mental health. Colleagues can sometimes be exposed to situations that they find traumatic. This can lead to problems that might last a few weeks, months or ones that need managing over the longer term.

In recent years, we have seen an increased number of people giving evidence to the Parliament on difficult, sensitive issues. It can be based on an individual’s lived experience, such as child sex abuse or bullying. Listening to these stories while at work can also take an emotional toll on someone and may lead to a variety of health issues which in turn could result in burnout or a chronic or sudden deterioration in mental health.

What is mental ill-health and how can it be addressed?

Mental health is our state of emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act and how we cope with the pressures of everyday life.

The Health and Safety Executive defines mental ill-health (stress) as “the adverse reaction people have to excess pressure or other types of demands placed on them”. This make an important distinction between pressure, which can be positive if managed correctly and stress which can be detrimental to health.

Anyone can experience a period of mental ill health. Mental health is a complex area and while we can try to define it, the effects of mental ill health are unique to each individual. It can range from common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression to more serious conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Symptoms can emerge suddenly because of a specific event, or gradually, where they can worsen over time.

Some conditions can be persistent and may move to be classed as a disability, while others can occur less frequently, leading to “good days” and “bad days”. Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. Factors both in and out of work affect the mental health of colleagues.

What is the aim of this policy?

The aim of the policy is to support a workplace environment that promotes the good mental health and wellbeing of all colleagues.

How will that be achieved?

We will continuously strive to improve the mental health environment and culture of Parliament by identifying, removing or minimising harmful processes, procedures and behaviours that may cause or contribute to psychological harm or illness to colleagues.

We will promote an integrated and whole institutional approach that actively encourages consideration of colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing across all areas of the Parliament. This will include:

  • ensuring our interactions are based on mutual respect and dignity for the different roles we play, commitment to high professional standards, an openness to constructive challenge, in both directions, between MSPs and staff
  • working to reduce and remove the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace
  • building and maintaining a workplace environment and culture that supports positive health and wellbeing
  • placing equal value on both physical and mental health
  • making mental health and wellbeing everybody’s responsibility
  • increasing awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues, including mental health training
  • ensuring that the mental health and wellbeing of colleagues is considered in all relevant policies and decisions
  • ensuring all managers and MSPs, as employers, are committed to the mental health and wellbeing of colleagues and act as good role models
  • encouraging a supportive workplace culture to facilitate early intervention and prevention
  • ensuring colleagues have clearly defined job roles, objectives and responsibilities with realistic timescales included to achieve targeted outputs while also providing them with good management support, appropriate training and adequate resources to do their job
  • establishing good two-way communication to ensure colleague involvement, particularly during periods of organisational change
  • managing conflict effectively and ensuring the Parliament is free from bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • providing support to managers and employing MSPs to support and improve wellbeing within their teams

By taking a whole Parliament approach to mental health, we will work collectively to promote a culture that is informed, supportive and inclusive. This inclusive approach can be achieved without undermining the employment relationship between Members and their staff.

What are the expected outcomes of this policy? 

Colleagues in all types of employment will:

  • have “good work” which contributes positively to their mental health and the overall performance of our Parliament
  • have the knowledge, tools and confidence to understand and look after their own mental health and the mental health of others

Managers and MSPs, as employers, will be:

  • equipped with the awareness and tools to not only address but prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work
  • equipped to support colleagues with mental health conditions to thrive, from recruitment and throughout their employment
  • aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill health

If you are a member of SPCB staff you can find more information about the Positive about mental health policy on the Intranet.