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Mental health at work: How the UK must improve

HR News |  07/10/2016
The issue of mental health at work has recently gained a great deal of attention. In response to this, Business in the Community (BITC) has compiled a report on the matter.

It has delved into the problem of companies not addressing employees’ mental health and how workers feel they must stay quiet on the issue.

The report revealed that employers largely struggle with providing the right mental health support to their staff.

According to BITC, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of employees have experienced symptoms of poor mental health in their lives, and for 62 per cent of employees, work has been a contributing factor to poor mental health.

However, despite this, over half of employees (56 per cent) who reported experiencing symptoms of poor mental health said that their employer took “no mitigating actions,” with just 22 per cent of managers having had relevant mental health training at work.
BITC said that its survey results show that progress is being made but that there is need for “greater organisational awareness of the support required for better mental health at work”.

It was found that employers are largely disconnected from the reality of employee experiences. Some 60 per cent of board members believe their organisation supports people with mental ill health and 97 per cent of senior managers believe that they are accessible if employees want to talk about mental health.

However, 63 per cent of managers believe that they are obliged to put the interests of their organisation above the wellbeing of team members, and 49 per cent of employees would not talk to their manager about a mental health issue.

“Millions of employees are suffering in silence and feel unable to share their experiences at work. When they do reach out, many are met with an inadequate response,” said Louise Aston, wellbeing director at BITC.

“Our findings show that we need more openness, more training and information, and more support for employees and managers. This is why we are asking employers to take three steps - talk, train and take action.”

The report advised employers to talk in order to “break the culture of silence that surrounds mental health,” to train by investing in “basic mental health literacy for all employees” and to take action by asking employees about their experiences to “identify the disconnects that exist in the organisation”.

There are a huge number of managers who do want to help, though, with a total of 76 per cent believing that staff wellbeing is their responsibility.

However, 80 per cent of these bosses reported that organisational barriers “prevent them from delivering on this”.

The result, according to BITC, is that default responses to supporting employees with poor mental health are time off work and a job change, both of which go against what employees want and best practice.

Helen Tucker, HR director at P&G Northern Europe, welcomed the report. She said: “This survey is so important as it raises public and employer awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing including the critical role of the line manager.

“We believe it is key to embed mental health awareness into line manager training so that they can best fulfil their responsibilities and take care of the people in their teams.”

By Diccon Lynes

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