30th Jul, 2020 Read time 4 minutes

More than half of UK workers cannot access, or are unaware of mental health support at work

Despite one in six workers suffering from a mental health condition and a rise of reported incidents of mental illness in employees, a new survey revealed 55.7% of people working in UK businesses don’t have access to mental health support, or even know if their business has policies to support workers with mental illness.

There has been improved awareness in recent years that mental health problems for staff can be serious and also directly impact on business but there is new evidence that most businesses are still not taking it seriously or putting in place procedures for support around mental health issues.

Here at HSE Network, we asked a cross-section of 1,513 workers from various sectors and job roles, across the UK, in July 2020, the question: Does your workplace have policies for helping staff with mental health?

Respondents replied:

  • Yes 44.30%
  • No 21.41%
  • Don’t Know 34.29%

The survey shows that there is still a long way to go in recognising support for mental illness within a company’s workforce.

Having policies for managing and acknowledging mental health conditions in the workplace has benefits for employers as well as employees. Mental illness can account for presenteeism, absenteeism and high staff turnover. In extreme circumstances, it can cost lives.

With 14.3 million working days lost per year in the UK due to stress, depression and anxiety the cost to employers is around £45 billion each year which is a rise of 16% since 2016, to the cost of an extra £6 billion a year. It has been found that every pound spent by employers on mental health interventions leads to a return of £5 in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.

Mental health sidelined

Paul Clark (35), Co-Founder of HSE Network sees the problem as a misunderstanding at a fundamental level.

“People who don’t suffer with a mental health problem themselves, don’t always recognise or address it. There is real misunderstanding with mental health. If you have someone with an addiction problem with drink for example, they can’t just put a drink down. It’s an illness. We don’t have the people in positions of power, from the government level and in certain businesses, who share the right understanding of mental health and mental illness.”

Paul has personal insight into the impact of mental illness, as someone who has nearly died as a result of alcohol and drug abuse.

Understand the problem

“I had a rock bottom, a near-death experience as a result of my addictions, which made me wake up to the reality. Mental health policies should be about building a support network where people can meet other people that suffer because they understand what they are going through. The managers who choose to ignore mental illness in their workforce, in my opinion, they shouldn’t be in a position of leadership,” said Paul Clark.

As well as running two Health & Safety related businesses, Paul also runs a support group in Bath, called The Onion, which brings people together with mental health challenges and has a Facebook community in excess of 2,000 followers.

“Mental health is the area that has the most prevalent number of incidents reported and in a workforce of 50-100 people you will definitely have members of your team who would benefit from support. As a leader you need to get under the bonnet of what mental illness and what mental health is. You need to attend seminars and meetings and you need to get into it to understand it because how can you help somebody recover if you don’t give them the right support or understand it yourself?”

Furthermore, there is an urgency to address mental health policies in businesses with the added pressures of working during the Covid19 pandemic. Mental health problems are triggered or compounded by remoteness and uncertainty. Due to this, mental health impacts on employment are expected to rise.

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