Small employers ‘fail to communicate with staff on stress’

Managers afraid of invading employees’ privacy

Small business owners lack the confidence to recognise and address mental health problems among staff, according to research from Bupa.

A survey by the firm found that 41% of small employers admit they never speak to employees about physical or mental health, while 26% say they do not feel confident they would be able to recognise ill health, stress or depression among workers.

In addition, it showed that 30% of bosses believe it is ‘none of their business’ to get involved in an employee’s health problem, and the feeling that doing so was an invasion of privacy was the most commonly cited reason for not addressing staff health concerns.

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at mental health charity Mind, said while physical health and safety is a key part of even small companies’ business practices, mental health continues to be “the elephant in the room”.

She said: “Clearly this is partly down to a lack of understanding at management level. Employers need to be able to recognise the signs and feel comfortable talking to their employees about any mental health problems they may have.

“It's also really important, particularly during the increased strain of working in a recession, that employers make sure they are taking steps to safeguard the mental wellbeing of all their staff to help reduce the risk of mental health problems developing or getting worse.”

Bupa last week launched a new service, Bupa Stress Management, aimed at helping employers communicate with their staff about stress.

The service, which costs from £19.50 per employee per year, includes management guidance on how to identify the symptoms of stress in the workplace, as well as ongoing support for staff, including a 24-hour confidential support line.

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