Should Employers Do More To Help Support Staff Suffering With Mental Health Issues?

Mental health at work

It is estimated that mental health issues cost UK employers around £30 billion a year through collective number of factors such as lost production, recruitment and absence.

This is an awful lot of money. If this was lost through any other area of the business alarm bells would ring and something would have drastically change. So this begs the question, why aren’t employers doing more to combat mental health issues at work?

There are many different answers to this, however one of the main reasons is the ever present stigma surrounding mental health in the UK, no matter how common the problem is, we still find it very difficult to talk about it.

A YouGov survey involving senior business decision makers across Great Britain was recently conducted in order find out their opinions on mental health in the workplace. Despite the high numbers of staff suffering from mental health issues, just 18% of senior business decision makers believe that their employees feel comfortable speaking about it with them. With a further 17% saying that there is a greater ‘stigma’ towards mental health conditions than physical ones in the workplace.

The study also showed that only 1 in 12 senior business decision makers believe employers are given enough support and advice regarding how to deal with mental health issues in the workplace. The study showed that January is believed to be the month in which British workers are most likely to take time off work for illness, with 20% of those surveyed stating this is the month they notice employees taking the most sick days off work.

People find their mental health issues very difficult to open up about, especially in the workplace, add this to the fact that employers find it even more difficult to manage mental health at work and you can start to see where the problem lies. Not listening to Employees about their issues could be very costly as mentioned above, it is estimated that employers could cut the cost of lost production, recruitment and absence as a result of mental health related issues by involving a third party which will improve the management and dealings with the employees.

The good news is that it appears employers are starting to take note of this and are making steps towards providing more support to employees. A study commissioned by PMI Health Group showed that 43 per cent of employers in the capital now offer stress management benefits such as EAPs and counselling, this is up from 23 per cent last year and 22 per cent in 2013. This is positive news and shows that Employers are finally understanding the importance of supporting mental health issues in the workplace. The YouGov survey mentioned above also found that many employers now offer health and wellbeing services to their staff, to help support their general welfare in the workplace. Of those surveyed the most prevalent service offered was flexible working hours, followed by encouragement of regular breaks and counselling.

What is an EAP?

An employee assistance program (EAP) is an employee benefit programs offered by employers. They are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their job performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include short-term counselling and referral services for employees and their household members. EAP counsellors typically provide assessment, support, and referrals to additional resources such as counsellors for a limited number of program-paid counselling sessions.

Despite this progression, there is no doubt that there is still a lot to be done regarding mental health issues in the work place. Nearly a third of senior business decision makers are aware of employees at their current organisation suffering from a mental health issue, with 18% aware of employees who have had to leave their job because of their mental health.

It seems employers are beginning to realise that it is in their best interests to keep their employers happy and stress free, this will keep their employees healthy and most importantly present at work. Let’s hope that this continues to improve and help continues to be put in place surrounding mental health in the workplace.

Does your work offer any benefits similar to the ones above? They might be worth enquiring about should you ever find yourself in a situation in which you are suffering from stress in the workplace. The more your employer can do to help you, the more of a benefit it will be for both parties.

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