Almost one in three businesses have seen an increase in the number of employees taking time off to cope with a mental health concern, but only half have consulted an external occupational health service to help those affected.
According to a survey of more than 1,000 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and insurer Aviva, a third of employers had seen an increase in the length of time staff affected by a mental health issue had taken off work.
One of the reasons for the increase in length and number of people taking time off could be staff feeling more comfortable talking about their mental health while at work, suggested Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva.
But while 36% of organisations were reviewing stressed employees’ individual workloads, 35% had offered them flexible working, 20% had offered counselling to staff and 18% were training managers to provide better support, BCC and Aviva said employers needed to do more.
Forty-nine per cent said they did not access occupational health support for their staff from external providers. Ten per cent were not aware of any available outside help.
It is crucial for businesses to pay close attention to the health and wellbeing of their employees, said BCC director general Adam Marshall, especially at a time where employers faced challenges in attracting and retaining staff.
“While legions of firms are now more aware of mental health concerns and acting accordingly, far too many businesses are still turning a blind eye to this issue, which saps productivity, morale and individual wellbeing,” he said.
“Our message today is that it is no longer acceptable for firms to ignore mental health in the workplace, and all companies need to step up their game.
“Tackling mental health concerns in business need not break the bank. Reviewing workloads, considering flexible working practices, and improving the skills of managers are simple measures that can help all firms build a happier and more productive workforce.”
Wright said Aviva’s data showed mental health conditions were the number one reason for rehabilitation referrals and that early intervention by experts “can bring a huge benefit to employees, helping them make a safe and timely return to work”.
“It is therefore important to look at what health and wellbeing initiatives are on offer to staff to make sure they have a breadth of options to support them. Doing so will reap rewards for both employee and employer,” added Wright.