Oprah Winfrey | 'HR didn't help' among claims in Meghan & Harry interview

'HR didn't help' among claims in Meghan & Harry interview

The most anticipated interview of the year aired on ITV last night, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sat down with American talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

During the interview, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke about alleged racism, mental health and the impact of the media.

There were claims about specific conversations to do with the Royal Family and the treatment of Meghan, as numerous outlets have reported.

These allegations coupled with the extreme pressure from the media contributed to Markle later battling with thoughts of suicide. With more pressure mounting from the UK tabloids, she claimed that she reached out to the institution for help.

In the interview, Markle told Winfrey: “I said, ‘I need help’.”

After being told there was nothing the institution could do, Markle decided to head to HR directly for support. While those she spoke to were sympathetic, the Duchess said she was informed little could be done as she was not a “paid employee”.

Markle said: “There’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee of the institution.

“This was emails and begging for help, saying very specifically, ‘I am concerned for my mental welfare’.”

Speaking to HR Grapevine, one HR practitioner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that if someone comes to HR in crisis they should always help. "Surely you'd do whatever you could to help," they said.

Markle also added that she wanted to seek medical help but was not allowed to do so without the support of the institution, adding that when she joined the Royal Family she had to turn over her driver’s license, passport and keys.

Why HR must support employee wellbeing

Whilst Markle might not have been an employee, most HR practitioners know about the importance of supporting wellbeing.

And the coronavirus crisis has shone a light on this even more over the past year as staff have struggled with financial anxiety, increasing stress levels and burnout as a result of working in isolation remotely.

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Jill Maples, HR Director at Hermes UK, previously expressed how important it is to support employee wellbeing, particularly when it comes to mental health. She stated that in particular, Hermes is going further in its commitment to provide a “framework to raise awareness and address the stigma of poor mental health”.

However, while Markle may not have managed to seek help from HR, employees should always be able to call on the department for support as and when needed. 

This is a notion that Melissa Proles, UK HR Manager at confectionery manufacturer Perfetti Van Melle, also concurs with, as she previously told HR Grapevine: "Promoting wellbeing creates a positive mindset, improves morale and helps to promote healthy mental awareness.” 

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