Employers failing to support stressed staff

Many employers are failing to invest enough in the health and wellbeing of their workers and must change their attitudes to mental illness, the leader of a mental health charity has claimed.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, added that the mental health of employees is an “elephant in the room” that employers are not addressing appropriately.

He said: “The negativity that persists around stress and mental health problems is unacceptable in a modern workforce. Pressure and stress may be part of our working lives, but failing to recognise that everyone has a limit is a mistake that costs businesses billions of pounds per year. Stigma is so great that employees worry that even mentioning stress will lose them their jobs. Mental health problems exist in every workforce, but at the moment it exists as a costly and unaddressed elephant in the room.”

Farmer’s comments coincide with Mind’s latest research, which has identified that one worker in five across England and Wales who suffers with stress fear that if they make public a mental health issue they will be first in line for redundancy. More than one-fifth (22%) of employees who disclosed mental health problems to their employer have been forced to quit or been sacked as a consequence, according to the research.

The report, “Taking care of business”, also revealed that two-thirds of those surveyed felt that the economic downturn had directly affected the amount of pressure they felt at the workplace. Almost half (48%) said they were scared to take time off work sick, despite four in 10 indicating that they are currently were experiencing stress.

Farmer added: “Rather than shying away from the issue, it’s more important than ever that businesses invest in staff wellbeing and encourage an open culture, where staff can come forward about the pressures they are feeling and be supported.”

Some 41% of those surveyed admitted that stress is a “taboo” topic at work, while 46% said that time off for stress was seen as an “excuse” for something else.

Read Paul Farmer’s opinion piece, Making your workplace mentally healthy on Personnel Today.

Are employers equipped to manage mental ill health? Rachel Suff looks at a number of steps employers can take to be better equipped to manage mental ill health in the workplace, such as training and support for line managers and awareness-raising campaigns (XpertHR subscription required).

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