Government urges employers to improve staff mental health

Employers given three-step programme

The government has today called upon employers to take steps to improve the mental health of their staff.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and care services minister Paul Burstow are warning that mental ill health costs British businesses over £1,000 per employee each year, or almost £30bn across the whole economy, largely through lost productivity and absence.

They are asking employers to sign up to the Time to Change campaign to help end mental health discrimination, and to appoint an employee as a mental health expert or train a number of staff in awareness in the same way they would do so for first aid.

The government is also calling upon companies to use the NHS Health for Work Adviceline, which is designed to support employers and employees in SMEs by providing free access to occupational health and wellbeing advice to help employees remain in or return to work after a period of ill health.

The Department of Health quotes a 2010 survey which found that 72% of workplaces had no formal mental health policy, and 23% of managers were unable to name a single mental health condition, as evidence for why attitudes need to change.

It also says that BT has seen a 30% reduction in mental health-related sickness absence since implementing a mental wellbeing strategy, and the company now has a return to work rate of 75% for people absent for more than six months.

Clegg said: “Today I am calling on every employer large and small to do a mental health stock take. Too many people suffer in silence with mental health issues.

“Employers are well placed to recognise warning signs and signpost their staff to support.”

He added that with 70 million working days lost as a result of mental health issues each year, businesses “cannot afford not to take mental health seriously”.

Five of the UK’s five leading mental health organisations – Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Turning Point, Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network – have worked in partnership with the government to draw up the plans.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: “This is such a valuable piece of work because it takes the overall aims and ambitions outlined in the mental health strategy and translates them into workable, practical actions for the front line.

“This implementation plan will help ensure that the strategy is not simply a list of aspirations, but is followed through with concrete changes, which will directly improve the lives of people affected by mental illness.”

comments powered by Disqus