WHO says workers, employees and their representatives should be invited to play an active role in developing policies to improve mental health
Nearly half (46%) of UK employers have seen an increase in the number of employees experiencing mental health issues according to a survey of 79,000 businesses in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the UK.
The poll, conducted by the Peninsula Group, revealed 43% of bosses had witnessed people talking more about their mental health in the past year. The UK saw the biggest change, with 64% of workers speaking more openly.
Two-thirds of employers were comfortable discussing employees’ mental health concerns, with 23.5% very confident that employees would disclose a mental health issue. Fewer than 10% of bosses said they were comfortable discussing their own mental health.
The survey revealed 46% of UK employers noted an increase in the number of people experiencing mental health issues, and a quarter saw an increase in sick leave due to mental health. Stress and poor mental health is the number one cause of work-related ill health said the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who estimate that 17 million working days were lost in the UK due to stress, depression and anxiety in 2021/22.
The survey found 94% of employers said they were available to help staff struggling with mental health concerns, yet only 12% of employees confided in their bosses, and of those that did, one in seven said nothing was done.
This statistic is concerning, said Andrew Berrie, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at mental health charity, Mind: “Looking after your employee’s mental health can seem like a daunting task, but supporting employee mental health and wellbeing doesn’t need to be complex or expensive.”
Asking employees what support they need is the first step for managers, Berrie said, and could include offering flexible hours, a change of workspace, and increased support in prioritising and managing workload. Mental health days could be another option; however, 85% of UK employers do not offer them and less than 10% of employers are planning to introduce them in the next 12 months, the survey found.
"[Those responsible for workers’ health and safety] should focus on reducing risks to mental health at work which include organisational interventions to reshape working conditions, cultures and relationships.”
“Managers and staff should have the necessary resources and training to promote and protect good mental health, while workers with mental health conditions must be supported to participate fully and equitably in the workplace,” said Mark Van Ommeren, Head of the Mental Health Unit, World Health Organisation (WHO).
"Governments, employers, organisations that represent workers and employers, and others responsible for workers’ health and safety all have a duty to improve mental health at work. They should focus on reducing risks to mental health at work which include organisational interventions to reshape working conditions, cultures and relationships,” added Van Ommeren. “To ensure these initiatives meet the needs of workers, employees and their representatives should be invited to play an active role in developing policies to improve mental health.”
Berrie said, “There are a number of things we want to see the UK government do, including a Statutory Sick Pay system that pays more and kicks in sooner, not from day three, so people don’t end up going to work when they should be off sick, because they’re worried about paying the bills. We also need to see more senior business leaders, parliamentarians and others in positions of power and influence open up about their own experiences of mental health.”
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