Oct 15

Progress on greater transparency on mental health in our workplace is SLOW……you could do better!

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In our April 2019 newsletter…’Be a progressive employer and conduct a disability, mental health and wellbeing audit in the workplace’…. we outlined the benefits to be reaped by those employers who drive greater transparency on disability, mental health and wellbeing in their workplace….

Six months on research suggests that progress is slow……

The Government Review, Thriving at Work, believes that ALL employers, of whatever size, can and should meet the following core standards:

• Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
• Develop mental health awareness among employees
• Encourage open conversations about mental health and provide support when employees are struggling
• Provide your employees with good working conditions
• Promote effective people management by training managers
• Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

Disappointingly, recent research has revealed that only a fifth of the employers polled had met even the first of the core standards, above, and almost half had not made any progress at all towards it. Therefore, the majority of organisations in the UK do NOT have a mental health at work plan.

This suggests employers are missing opportunities to intervene at a much earlier stage to minimise the amount of time lost to sickness absence. The latest figures serve as a stark reminder as to just how costly this is for UK employers…..poor workplace mental health, which is the main cause of sickness absence, is estimated to cost between £33bn and £42bn each year.

Mental health is undoubtedly higher up the HR agenda than at any other time. However, much more work needs to be done to ensure organisations have a culture that encourages timely disclosure of mental ill-health – this in turn allows for early intervention, that may minimise the length, severity and impact of a mental ill health episode.

What is required is the development of skills and competence among line managers, and resources need to be found to do just this. Line managers are vital in creating workplaces that are positive for people’s mental health and wellbeing, but they need to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to do this.

Just a few snippets from the recent research which support the need to train your managers properly to deal with mental health and wellbeing:

• Line managers think they do not get enough help from their organisation to support the mental wellbeing of their staff, despite this being viewed as vital in the creation of mentally healthy workplaces.

• Fewer than a third of managers had been sufficiently trained to recognise the signs of mental ill-health in their staff.

• Line managers either have never heard mention of a mental health at work plan or heard about it in passing but have not received support to create one.

• Very few managers ever discuss mental health at all with their direct employees or reports and even less admitted to discussing their reports’ own mental health.

• The majority of UK workers would not discuss mental ill-health with their manager because they were concerned they would be judged as incapable. Instead they would confide in a colleague.

• It is believed many employees have taken absence because of mental ill-health but that is not the reason given for their absence.

Businesses need to work hard to break down these taboos, by investing in training their management teams and thus creating more open lines of communication.

It is undoubtedly an area loaded with often sensitive, and therefore challenging issues, but it is worth remembering that an organisation that promotes transparency around disability, mental health and wellbeing will inevitably enjoy improved employee engagement and retention with consequent gains for performance and productivity.

Professional advice and support is on hand if you need it…..nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call Nicola on 07917 878384