This page describes best practice. It does not explain the law

6. Develop skills, knowledge and understanding

As an employer, make sure managers have the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to support disabled workers and those with long-term health conditions appropriately. We will refer to both as 'workers' in this guidance.

Managers include:

  • supervisors
  • line managers
  • business owners
  • managers of functions
  • secretaries

A trusting relationship between managers and their workers is important to:

  • help workers reach their potential
  • keep workers in your business
  • support return to work after sickness absence

Managers can often spot changes in behaviour or performance. This may show that a worker needs support. Some situations can be complex and unique to an individual. Managers should have the knowledge to point workers to information on workplace practices.

Training and development

Make sure managers always have access to formal training plans. This will help them develop their skills and knowledge throughout their employment.

Your instruction, information and training for managers should include:

  • HR policies/procedures
  • health and safety policies/procedures
  • disability awareness
  • generic management skills
  • mental health awareness
  • communication skills

Encourage your managers to do continuous professional development. This will help them to keep skills and learn new ones.


How training improved mental health and helped a worker return to work

The management of a small retail chain arranged training on mental health and wellbeing for store managers. The training suggested having regular wellbeing chats with workers. The trainer provided a conversation prompt sheet with around 10 questions.

What changed

One store manager tried having regular wellbeing chats with her workers. She found she didn't often need the prompt sheet. She is able to have natural, open conversations with her workers, but the sheet is there if she needs it.

The benefits 

The chats allow the store manager to ask about workers as people. She has started to understand what their life is like outside work. She sometimes hears about something outside work that impacts on their work. The store manager was surprised at how open workers were to the chats, and it has increased trust.

She thinks that the regular chats helped one of her workers feel able to tell her about having suicidal thoughts. Knowing this, the store manager was able to help support the worker. She gave her some time off, it ended up being 2 weeks, and helped arrange counselling sessions. The store manager focussed on maintaining contact with her worker while she was off. She made sure that they agreed how and when the worker would be contacted. The worker did not feel pressured, she was able to focus on improving her mental health. She returned to work when she felt ready.

There are more examples of possible changes to put into practice in the government service Support with employee health and disability (GOV.UK).

Encourage good management behaviours

Encouraging managers to apply good management behaviours, like:

  • being open, fair and consistent
  • managing conflicts and problems
  • providing knowledge, clarity and guidance
  • building and sustaining relationships
  • supporting development
  • challenging and addressing poor behaviour in peers or workers

Talk to your workers regularly. This will help you understand if you need to improve anything at work.

Provide support for managers

You need to make sure managers have appropriate support. Think about how managers can access additional training or advice if they need to. You can provide this internally or externally, or point to free resources online.

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