The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently launched its Mental Health at Work initiative, including a new website providing a variety of resources and tools to help improve overall mental health services in the workplace.

Highlights of Workplace Mental Health Resources Website

  • The DOL launched a new website dedicated to addressing mental health issues in the workplace.
  • The website includes summaries of what employers are legally required to do to support employees’ mental health.
  • These legal requirements include ensuring there is mental health parity in health plan coverage, providing leave for mental health conditions and complying with the ADA’s protections.
  • The website includes other resources, such as posters and checklists, to help employers create a supportive workplace.


Mental Health Crisis

Mental health issues are increasingly prevalent in the workplace. According to the DOL’s research, approximately 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness every year. More than 46 million people in the country experienced a substance use disorder in the previous year. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States.

Also, almost half of workers said their work is suffering because of poor mental health. Despite its prevalence, there can be significant stigma around mental illness, including in the workplace.

Employer Compliance Requirements

Employers play a critical role in creating environments where workers are as comfortable seeking support for treating mental health conditions as they are with other types of illnesses. Employers are required to comply with the following federal laws to support workers’ mental health:

  •  Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA): Under MHPAEA, health plans that cover mental health or substance use benefits cannot impose more restrictions on those benefits than what generally applies to comparable medical or surgical benefits.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Under the FMLA, covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to eligible employees.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Under the ADA, workers with mental health conditions may be protected against workplace discrimination and harassment related to their condition, have workplace confidentiality rights, and have a legal right to reasonable accommodations that can help them perform and keep their job.

Mental Health Resources

The DOL’s new website includes summaries for employers on the workplace legal requirements regarding mental health, including a fact sheet on MHPAEA, frequently asked questions about when employees can take FMLA leave for a mental health condition, and examples of reasonable accommodations that may help employees with mental health conditions to perform their jobs more effectively.

To help create a supportive workplace, the DOL’s website has links to various posters, checklists, toolkits and other resources. The website also provides resources for workers to get help with their mental health needs and learn about their rights.

Mental Health Benefits

More than 1 in 5 Americans have diagnosable mental disorders at some point in their lives, yet only about half of those individuals receive professional mental health treatment. One major determinant of an individual’s access to mental healthcare is whether he or she has health insurance that includes mental health benefits.

Now, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), non-grandfathered health plans in the individual and small group markets are required to cover mental and behavioral health treatments as one of the 10 essential health benefits. Therefore, most fully insured group health plans sponsored by small employers (typically, employers with up to 50 employees) include coverage for mental health benefits.

In addition, health plans must comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act (MHPAEA) of 2008, which prohibits group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than what they impose on surgical and medical care.

MHPAEA’s provisions are included under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974; therefore, self-funded plans must also comply with federal mental health parity requirements. Employers that violate MHPAEA may be subject to an IRS excise tax of generally $100 per individual per day (unless an exception applies).

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