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Businesses fail to prevent and tackle mental ill health, research reveals


The latest research on mental ill health in British business, commissioned by national charity Shaw Trust, reveals a worrying lack of awareness amongst professionals around both its incidence and how to address it. It's prompted the charity to launch a website with advice on how to tackle workplace mental health.

The research found that HR directors estimated the number of employees to be suffering from mental ill health issues to be five per cent or fewer in an entire lifetime, a gross underestimation of the problem.

The Office of National Statistic reveals that one in six people will suffer from some sort of mental ill health condition at any one time.

Comments Shaw Trust managing director Tim Cooper: “Only 36% of HR directors said that their company had any formal policy that addressed mental health in the workplace. There is a clear need for more support, structure and education on how to tackle mental health issues in the workplace.”

Shaw Trust, has developed a website - - which aims to provide comprehensive, easy to understand advice on how to deal with and help reduce mental ill health in the workplace, as well as providing links to other support organisations.

Tim Cooper explains: “We passionately believe that everyone has the right to work and has a valuable contribution to make and are therefore urging employers to log on and find out how they can help make a difference within their workplace.

"When developing the site one of our main objectives was to create an online resource which would empower line managers to tackle the issue of mental ill health in a positive way.

"We are confident that managers from all industries will be able to benefit from the free practical solutions and advice we provide, by being able to provide more supportive management, therefore improving employee retention, helping to increase productivity and profitability.”

The website covers:

* early warning signs of employees with mental health conditions
* how to talk to employees with ill health issues
* how to support and manage employees who have been signed off sick
* how to create a more healthy workplace environment as a preventative measure.
* advice on legal requirements

It also provides the opportunity for both employers and employees to share their stories and advice on mental ill health within the workplace.

Professor Cary L Cooper, CBE, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University commented: “Stress is the major health problem affecting UK employees – it is now one of the leading causes of sickness absence in the UK within both the public and private sector.

"Aside from the enormous cost of mental ill health and stress in terms of incapacity benefit and sickness absence there is also an unquantifiable cost to businesses from underperformance and a lack of productivity caused by mental ill health conditions. This new website will provide a valuable resource and give British businesses the tools they need to tackle the issue of mental ill health more effectively.”

Peter Barnett, head of external affairs at Unum added: “There is a significant risk that employers will lose out on skills and experience and never realise the full value of the ‘talent pool’, unless mental health is better understood and managed. There is a requirement to encourage a clearer understanding among employers of mental illness in the workplace if we are to bring about a shift in thinking and practice. We need to become better informed about attitudes to mental health in the workplace and how that impinges upon our own business.”

Key research findings:

•Only 1 in 5 businesses have a policy on how to deal with mental ill health in the workplace. Only 16% of those who have a policy feel that it is well understood within their organisation and only 14% claim it is effective. This means that in total, only 3% of senior managers are aware they have a policy and feel it is effective in doing what it is intended to do

•70% of organisations said they didn’t know enough about the law regarding mental health in the workplace

•More than 70% of employers agreed that ‘British industry loses a great deal of talent because it does not know how to best deal with mental health conditions’

•60% of senior managers use no support when dealing with mental ill health (either internal such as an HR department or external support)

•One third claim to use nothing to measure stress, even when given options such as ‘informal review meetings on an ad hoc basis’, demonstrating that mental ill health is not on the radar for one out of three managers

•8 out of 10 feel that British industry needs more support in dealing with mental ill health in the workplace

•Approximately 70% of respondents claim their job is at least fairly if not very stressful


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