Make a date for World Mental Health day on 10 October to review how your organisation treats and offers support for mental health issues in the workplace.
World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness of mental health and advocate against the social stigma associated with it.
It’s important for HR professionals and anyone who manages others at work to be aware of the issues surrounding mental health, so this is a good time for us to address the subject.
The cost to business
In 2018, the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) discovered that poor mental health was the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces. It also learned that stress-related absence had risen in more than a third of organisations. Read more about dealing with stress in the workplace in our previous blog.
Mental Health charity Mind, meanwhile, found that one in 10 employees rated their current mental health as poor or very poor.
From a business point of view, mental health issues are expensive. Thriving at Work: the Stevenson-Farmer review of mental health and employers found that the ‘economic costs to employers, directly to Government and to the economy as a whole are also far greater than we had anticipated’. Analysis concluded that mental health illness can cost businesses between £1,205 and £1,560 per year per employee – a cost to UK business of between £33 billion and £42 billion a year due to absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turnover.
Mental health is far-reaching, it covers issues such as anxiety, depression, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), panic attacks, phobias, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and more.
The problem with mental health is that people can be reluctant to talk about it – particularly if they feel it will expose a weakness. They are worried that it could lead to them losing their job, being demoted, or passed over for promotion. Unlike a broken leg, others are not always so understanding about mental health issues. But you can help to change that culture within your own organisation.
Employers have duties under health and safety legislation to assess the risk of stress-related poor mental health that could arise from work situation and to take measures to control that risk. See the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Management Standards [HSE: What are the management standards?] for more details.
The Equality Act also covers mental health issues under disability – even if the person concerned doesn’t consider that they have a disability, it is good practice to put things in place to accommodate them.
However, the law doesn’t always offer the best protection – the Equality Act states that a disability must be long term – 12 months. This may not be the case for some mental health issues, but it doesn’t mean they have any less of an impact on the employee.
Apart from the human cost of not dealing with mental health issues in the appropriate way, an organisation could find itself lumped with a hefty fine. For instance, it cost an NHS Trust £100,000 when they threatened a suicidal member of staff with legal action [Mail Online: Ex-NHS worker wins £100,000 payout after former bosses threatened legal action when he wrote to say he felt suicidal following his unfair dismissal 12/09/2019].
So for many reasons, HR professionals should be tackling this subject in the right way.
How can you help?
There are a number of ways you can support your people:
- Work with line managers to develop their people management toolbox.
- Train managers and employers to be aware of early signs of mental health issues. Make sure they know how to respond and where to go for help. The Mind website is a useful place to start.
- Mental health first aiders – get willing staff trained as mental health first aiders, who can spot the signs of mental health issues – and sometimes just be there with a cup of tea and a chat. Find out more in one of our previous blogs.
- Does your organisation offer counselling services? Make sure staff know how to access them.
- Is the workload too heavy on some of your employees? This can lead to mental health issues if they feel under too much pressure. Make time to review job descriptions and workloads.
- Make employees aware that your organisation promotes a healthy work-life balance. Employees who are drained and burned out are not giving their best to the company. Do you have a gym on-site or could you negotiate a special rate with the local gym for your employees?
- In similar fashion, offer flexible working if it is an option for your industry. Read more on this in our blog here.
- Promote work-life balance. If your staff work long hours and have no home or family life, they will burn out quickly. Make sure your organisation recognises the importance of a healthy balance.
- Be aware of the risk of suicide and include it in the organisation’s health and well-being programme. Business in the Community’s suicide prevention toolkit is useful.
Find more help by downloading the People Manager’s Guide to Mental Health from the CIPD.
If you would like to discuss this subject further and how it could help your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.
T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.
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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.