Let’s face it, we have a juggernaut heading our way. The average UK workplace is not taking the growing mental health issues that are being experienced by our employees seriously enough. Last year’s government-commissioned Thriving at Work report showed that as many as 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem, and that poor mental health at work costs the UK economy between £72 billion and £99 billion.
Even more worryingly, research by Mind suggests that one in three employers do not know where to look for guidance on mental health issues.
It really is time to wake up to the problem. In this month’s article, we are looking to explore what can practically be done to manage the problem, and give the best support to your employees.
Trying to understand the problem
One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point during their lives. Thankfully, while mental health problems are clearly common, most are mild, tend to be short-term and are normally successfully treated with medication by a GP.
Mental health is a broad subject, capturing how we think, feel and behave. The conditions suffered are also wide ranging – with anxiety and depression being the most common mental health problems recorded. Issues can be caused in reaction to any difficult life event, but importantly can also be caused or aggravated by work-related issues.
A recent study by Benenden, demonstrated just how deep the issue has become. They measured the types of mental health issues experienced, across a range of ages and social groups. Their findings were quite disturbing – one example being that 8% of a typical workforce had self-harmed. That’s not insignificant.
What legislation says
The Health and Safety Executive, Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, has published guidance on the management of mental health. What they make clear is that, whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees. They go onto say that work-related mental health issues must to be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable.
It is also important to consider that some employees will also have a mental health condition when recruited or may develop one caused by factors that are not work-related. In these circumstances, employers may have further legal requirements, to make reasonable adjustments under the current equalities’ legislation.
What the experts say
In 2017, the government commissioned Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) to independently review the role employers can play to better support individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace.
The ‘Thriving at Work’ report sets out a framework of actions – called ‘Core Standards’ – that the reviewers recommend employers of all sizes can and should put in place. This is a sensible place to start, helping employers to:
• Form part of a mental health at work plan
• Promote communications and open conversations, by raising awareness and reducing stigma
• Provide a mechanism for monitoring actions and outcomes
There are a few simple steps that employers of any size can take to make a difference in their place of work. These include:
• Do your research. We recommend a simple review of the HSE legislation to understand your legal obligations. Search for mental health conditions, work and the workplace, and their content is easy to follow
• Read around the subject. There is a wealth of free and very well researched information available. We recommend the ACAS guidance - Managing staff experiencing mental ill health (available on their website), Britain’s Healthiest Workplace annual report 2018 (available from Vitality or the team at ViiSana can send a copy to you), Benenden’s Mental Health In The Workplace report published in 2017, and the guidance published on www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk
Here you will find guidance on improving culture, influencing organisational approach and also policy development
Make a change TODAY. There are simple steps that can be taken that have an instant impact. These include:
• Train volunteers in Mental Health First Aid
• Offer mentorship to those in need
• Create a social environment – schedule events that include everyone in the workplace
• Provide a confidential and private support mechanism
• Promote sleep – it’s important!
• Easy access to experts – meditation, stress relief, yoga
• Provide support from local financial partners. Money worries are significantly contributing to overall mental issues
Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2018
Awareness of mental health issues is growing, and many British employers marked October’s World Mental Health Day by handing out pamphlets and green ribbons. But the journey from a company saying it supports good mental health to doing so in practice can be a long one and, too often, one that remains incomplete.
Four in 10 managers have been approached by employees with mental health problems, the Institute of Directors says. Yet the IoD, in its survey of 700 company directors conducted in May last year, also found that two-thirds of organisations did not offer mental health-related training to managers.
If you would like to discuss your company’s individual health concerns/challenges, or if you would just like to discuss ideas for implementing a programme at your business, please get in touch: Email: email@example.com
Phone 0333 772 0761