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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

UK employers report rise in mental health problems: CIPD study

Date: 9/10/2015
Summary: Figures from the professional body for HR and learning development’s latest annual Absence Management survey finds 41 per cent of respondent organisations have seen reported mental health problems among their employees increase over the past 12 months.

Headline findings from the full study, set to be published on Monday in partnership with health insurers Simplyhealth, also reveal that reported mental ill health has risen every year since 2009. That year, only 24 per cent of organisations noted an increase; 2015 is now the sixth consecutive year that levels have been over 40 per cent.

Large and medium-sized employers (69% and 51% respectively) are showing the greatest rises. The study also found an association between high levels of mental ill health, long working hours and how much operational demands take precedence over employee wellbeing, says the CIPD.

In terms of taking action, the research suggests the private sector has further progress to make in better managing and supporting employees with mental health problems. Here 28 per cent report not taking action to support employees and 32 per cent offering a counselling service. This compares to 70 per cent of public sector organisations offering such a service.

Similarly, only 21 per cent reported increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce as a whole, compared to over 47 per cent in the public sector.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, comments, “Unfortunately, this year’s survey shows the number of reported mental health problems has increased for many employers, and after over half a decade at these levels, we can’t afford to let this issue continue to grow any longer. As a nation we’re getting better at opening up the conversation around mental health, but there is still a long way to go.”

Corinne Williams, head of human resources at Simplyhealth, continues, “In this year’s survey organisations that have experienced an increase in reported mental health problems are twice as likely to provide training and support, compared with those that haven’t. This could be due to the fact that employees feel they can speak out about their mental health issues, which is great news as it shows work environments aren’t hostile to the topic of mental health.

“But if organisations are to reduce reported levels of mental health absence, we need to target the root causes of mental health problems in the workplace, rather than just the signs, and deal with issues as and when they arise.”

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, adds, “These figures show just how common mental health problems are in the workplace and highlight why it’s so important that businesses make promoting staff mental wellbeing a priority.

“It’s positive to see more staff opening up to their employers if they are struggling with their mental health. The stigma surrounding mental health is beginning to dissipate, as awareness increases, with more people coming forward. But we know that many people still don’t feel comfortable disclosing, and sometimes those who do aren’t offered the right support at the right time.

“It’s vital that employers proactively promote good wellbeing for all as well as being able to support members of staff experiencing mental health problems. As well as a legal obligation, it makes business sense too – staff are happier, healthier, more productive, engaged and loyal if they work for a company which proactively promotes wellbeing for their entire workforce.”

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