In May, TSB announced that it was going to sign the Time to Change pledge, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, to show its commitment to supporting the mental health of employees.
Iain Laing (TSB’s Chief Risk Officer and executive sponsor for wellbeing) is quoted as saying:
“Mental health is an issue we can’t afford to ignore. [According to Time to Change,] a quarter of British workers are affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year, so it really isn’t something that any of us should feel uncomfortable talking about.
“That’s why I’m delighted to sign up to the Time to Change Pledge, which not only commits the bank to an action plan for change, but also gives a very clear message to all of our [employees] that talking about mental health isn’t a taboo. In fact, it’s something we encourage. Because no one should feel the need to say, ‘I’m fine’ when they’re not.”
Starting The Conversation
He’s saying all the right things, but should we be impressed?
Not at all!
On the very same day that TSB’s Chief Risk Officer signed the Time to Change pledge, a member elsewhere in the business received the news that her employment was to be terminated by TSB due to her absence. The member’s absence was related predominantly to stress and anxiety, from which she has suffered for a number of years and which quite clearly constituted a disability.
TSB refused to acknowledge that the member was disabled and failed to consider what adjustments it could make to help her. Instead it embarked on a hasty campaign to eject her from the business.
As the executive sponsor for wellbeing, what does Mr Laing have to say about TSB’s treatment of this member and what’s he going to do about it?
Disability and the Employment Tribunal
In February, an Employment Tribunal gave its verdict in a disability discrimination claim brought by the union against Lloyds Bank on behalf of a disabled member who suffers from severe mental health issues caused by stress at work.
The Tribunal panel, consisting of an Employment Judge and two wing members, came to the unanimous decision that Lloyds had failed to make reasonable adjustments for the disabled member of staff, despite her repeated requests for help over a substantial period of time.
The Judgement was a stark warning that warm words and glossy PR campaigns fool no one: Employment Tribunals will judge employers on what they do not what they say.
Mental Health in TSB
Our bet is that although there will be some examples of good management of people with mental health issues, as there have always been, mental health and wellbeing will not be as high up the priority list as they should be in an organisation that’s being re-focused on cutting costs and driving up sales. Organisational stress is going to be a constant issue, with people being forced to move to new work locations, asked to work even more flexibly with unpaid overtime and pushed to hit sales targets (however they’re dressed-up).
In that environment there is a real prospect that TSB will produce policies that say all the right things but bear no relation to what happens on the ground.
Where mental health is concerned, TBU will scrutinise the Bank’s treatment of members carefully and if it fails to give them the support they are entitled to, we will take their cases to the Employment Tribunal. There, the individuals responsible will be held accountable for their actions.
You can tell us about your experience of TSB’s approach to mental health by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.