Mental health is having a severe impact on employment figures

By Catherine Sturman
A recent review commissioned by UK Prime Minister Theresa May has revealed that approximately 300,000 people with long-term mental health conditions are...

A recent review commissioned by UK Prime Minister Theresa May has revealed that approximately 300,000 people with long-term mental health conditions are at risk of losing their jobs each year, costing the UK economy up to £99 billion, with £42 billion borne by employers.

The astonishing figure is sure to bring the delicate subject to light with employers, who will need to work harder in developing new plans to fully support employees in order to not lose skilled workers or lose momentum with regards to productivity.

Named The Thriving at Work report, it highlights how mental health is still a subject frowned upon in a number of industries, and is less accepted than physical ailments.

Warwick Business School Associate Professor of Organisation and Human Resource Management ethics Dr Shainaz Firfiray explains: "Despite the enormous costs that stress and other mental health conditions represent to employers in terms of lost productivity and high employee turnover rates, most employers provide little or ineffective support to employees struggling with mental health issues.

"Experiencing mental health problems can make people feel isolated. A supportive and inclusive workplace environment where employees can discuss these issues freely without being stigmatised can help in overcoming this sense of isolation.

"This often requires a combined effort where employees, managers, and healthcare professionals work together to reach solutions based on a consideration of different perspectives.

"To support such efforts managers should also be better equipped to spot the root causes of mental health related issues. Very often managers lack the 'soft skills' that are needed to have sensitive and respectful conversations with employees on their mental health.

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"This could also involve training to detect instances of bullying and harassment that could be having an impact on employee well-being. In such cases reasonable adjustments should be made to enable people to stay at work as such support can be invaluable to an employee’s health in their time of need."

Access to mental health services are also becoming increasingly difficult in the UK.

Authors of the report, Chief Executive at MIND, Paul Farmer, alongside former Lord Stevenson, have added that with the right support, increased numbers of people who have mental health conditions can gain a number of advantages through employment, and employers will see a significant return on their investment within mental health support.

The report outlines 40 recommendations, which Theresa May has already stated the government will take forward.

“It’s time for every employer to recognise their responsibilities and affect change, so that the UK becomes a world leader in workplace wellbeing for all staff and in supporting people with mental health problems to thrive at work,” commented Stevenson. 

“Vital to this is the need to have a comprehensive cross-government plan which transforms how we deal with mental illness not only in our hospitals or crisis centres but in our classrooms, shop floors and communities,” added May.

“It is only by making this an everyday concern for everyone that we change the way we see mental illness so that striving to improve your mental health – whether at work or at home – is seen as just as positive as improving our physical wellbeing.”


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