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Businesses must recognise a duty of mental health care

10 October 2017 by David Hope

Businesses must recognise a duty of mental health care - Read more

World Mental Health Day raises awareness on what can be lost in neglecting the mental wellbeing of staff.

In the five years since August 2012, workplace absences relating to mental health issues have risen 40%.

FirstCare’s data reveals this from examining more than 13 million days of absence across some 180,000 employees, as shown in our latest quarterly index, the Absence Management Barometer.

With an estimated 31 million people working in the UK, this rise is the equivalent of 4.34 million days lost – or an additional 1.25 million days lost due to mental health in 2017 than 2012.

In June to August this year it was the most common reason for absenteeism in the UK.

This tells us two things that you do not need to be a statistician to deduce: there has been a steep increase in mental health absenteeism in recent years and the summer months pile extra stress on individuals – a time when we would normally hope to be rewarded with some rest and recuperation.

Holidays, and children being home from school, likely have an impact here and these stresses can often be carried over to the workplace.

With children back at school and the holiday season now over, we predict that absenteeism due to mental health issues will drop over the next three months and should account for 0.13 days lost per employee in November, compared with 0.14 in August.

This is all good, but there is no point in delivering this data if it is not used in a positive way. We encourage employers to look at these trends, recognise who could be affected and where this may impact their business, and implement policies to support those that are living with or could be susceptible to mental health problems.

Organisations should ensure their stress management policies are up-to-date, that staff are encouraged and comfortable raising stress-related anxieties and concerns, and that line managers have sufficient training.

By doing so, employers will see the benefit to their workforce in both health and productivity, while making significant healthcare cost savings. There is a raft of information out there to help with this, and human resources and occupational health staff can recognise signs and help those that need assistance.

Every year World Mental Health Day recognises these awful illnesses and they deserve close attention. As corporate entities we do not just commit to the bottom line, we have an obligation to protect the wellbeing of our employees.

David Hope is chief executive at FirstCare

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