19 October, 2019
89% of attendees said they felt mental health issues are on the rise in their organisation A third said their workplace does not have a mental health strategy or programme
Lewis Silkin, the law firm, hosted its conference on Mental Health in the Workplace across Asia-Pacific which brought together the region’s leading employment lawyers, medical, HR and health insurance professionals to discuss the legal implications of this critical issue and what employers can do to improve mental wellbeing in their organisation.
In Hong Kong, for example, a recent study by Oliver Wyman in partnership with the City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong revealed that one in three professionals have poor mental health, with the majority saying that their employers do not have the resources to support them and over a third said they do not feel comfortable discussing their mental health at work1.The results from the survey (sub-heading above), which all conference attendees participated in, further supports the findings of the study.
Kathryn Weaver, partner and Head of Lewis Silkin Hong Kong, commented:
“The topic of mental health in Hong Kong still remains shrouded in stigma and taboo, with few companies addressing the critical aspect of employee wellbeing in their organisation and that’s got to change. The first step to reducing stigma around mental health is to increase the conversation and that is the purpose of bringing people together here today.”
The first session of the conference focused on how different jurisdictions in Asia-Pacific protect mental health conditions and addressed the key issues of an employer’s legal obligations, discrimination law and sharing information about an employee’s mental health prognosis. Speakers and the jurisdictions they covered included: John Tuck, Partner, Corrs Chambers Westgarth (Australia); Catherine Leung, Legal Director, Lewis Silkin (Hong Kong); Sui Lin Teoh, Deputy Managing Partner, R&T Asia (Thailand); Christopher Mandel, Senior Foreign Counsel, Yulchon (Korea); and Rogier van Bijnen, Partner, R&P China Lawyers (China) and was moderated by Russell Brimelow, Partner, Lewis Silkin. While the legal obligations for employers varies across jurisdictions one trend was clear – an increasing expectation on clients to support the mental wellbeing of their employees and how it will particularly impact jurisdictions and industries where working long-hours is commonplace.
Catherine Leung, Legal Director, Lewis Silkin Hong Kong commented:
“There is still a cultural stigma in Hong Kong but looking at the recent cases which have been coming across my desk, employees have slowly become more vocal as we are seeing an increasing trend of claims for disability discrimination related to mental illness brought by employees.”
The second session discussed the practical implications for employers about what a ‘best in class’ international wellbeing strategy looks like, approaches to generating discussions about mental wellbeing and how you can measure success. It included the following speakers: Dr Tess Browne, Founder, TalkSpace Psychology Services; Dr Tommy Chan, Clinical Psychologist, Matilda International Hospital; Yuman Chan, CEO and Country Manager, Cigna Worldwide Life Insurance; Holly McGhee, Diversity and Inclusiveness Lead FSO APAC, EY; and Dr Hannah Reidy, CEO, Mind HK and was moderated by Kathryn Weaver, Partner, Lewis Silkin.
The conference formed part of a global campaign Lewis Silkin launched this year called #ThisPlaceMinds, which focuses on assisting clients with improving mental wellbeing in the workplace. It was attended by over 60 senior HR and legal professionals from a range of international companies.
Kathryn Weaver concluded the conference by saying, “The most important thing for us to get out of today is to keep the conversation going around mental health; we’ve got to reduce the stigma around it and make the lives of people who are suffering from it better.”