Published 12 June 2020, The Daily Tribune

In my previous column, I wrote about the mandate of employers under the Mental Health Act to develop appropriate policies and programs on mental health in the workplace. I also discussed certain portions of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order 208 (DO 208), Series of 2000, which serves as guidelines for the implementation of mental health workplace policies and programs (MHPP) for the private sector. In particular, I talked about two of several components and implementation strategies prescribed by DOLE, namely: 1. Advocacy, Information, Education and Training; and 2. Promotion and enhancement of workers’ well-being.

In this article, I would like to focus on the following equally important features that should also be incorporated in the MHPP pursuant to DO 208:

Social Policy

There shall be non-discriminatory policies and programs in place to protect workers who are at risk of developing or who are found to have mental health condition. Workers shall not be discriminated against from hiring, promotion, and/or other benefits or employment because of their condition, provided, however, that such conditions shall not interfere with the employee’s performance of their job or unduly affect his own safety or that of his co-workers, clients and the general public.

Access to personal data or any information relating to a worker’s mental health condition shall be bound by the rules of confidentiality and/or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

On the other hand, workers are encouraged to disclose their medical or mental health condition for purposes of reasonable accommodation. Agreements on work accommodation and work arrangements for a worker with mental health condition shall be made between management and workers’ representatives, provided however that such mental condition shall not prevent the worker from performing the requirements of the job or will endanger his/her safety, or that of his/her co-workers, clients or the general public.

Treatment and rehabilitation

The MHPP shall include capacity for treatment or referral procedures for treatment and rehabilitation. Workers with mental health condition shall be referred to a Department of Health (DOH) accredited mental health facility or service providers for appropriate management. The absence of workers undergoing treatment and rehabilitation shall be charged against their leave credits or they may utilize other regulated leaves, if applicable without prejudice to the existing company policies on the availment of leave.

Benefits and compensation

In terms of benefits and compensation, workers with mental health conditions shall be entitled to all monetary and non-monetary statutory benefits in accordance with existing rules and regulations. Further, companies engaging the services of third party healthcare providers are encouraged to include mental health services in their health packages.

Support mechanism

Lastly, a mechanism for support such as access to counseling through referrals shall be included in the MHPP. Employers may tap a counselor to provide mental health services for its employees and/or their families

The implementation and monitoring of the MHPP shall be the responsibility of the employer. Further, DOLE requires that the MHPP be reviewed and evaluated annually or as necessary to ensure its effective implementation and compliance to latest legal issuances. The latest copy of the MHPP shall be submitted to the DOLE Regional Office having jurisdiction over the company.

DO 208 makes it easier for employers to comply with their mandate to formulate their MHPP. The greater challenge, however, lies in translating the policy and program into practice. Aside from ensuring that there are adequate resources to implement and sustain the MHPP, the employers, together with the workers, shall likewise strive to make promotion of mental wellness part of their culture. After all, a successful implementation of the MHPP leads to a win-win scenario as it positively impacts employees leading to engagement, higher productivity and efficiency.

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