Louise Aston, Business in the Community Wellbeing Director, comments on the announcement this morning that the Government is pledging to help schools and business in England deal with the ' hidden injustice' of mental illness.
“Mental health is one of the major health challenges facing Britain today and we welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that the government is committing to improving mental health support and care.
“It is positive that the role of employers is acknowledged. Employers have a duty of care to their employees to respond to mental ill health just as they would to a physical illness. It is critical that all employers recognise that everyone has mental health and physical health, and that we all move along a continuum between good and poor mental health throughout our lives.
"The Prime Minister cites the issue of employees forced out of work due to mental health - this is just one of the many symptoms of how deeply entrenched the stigma of mental health remains in UK business.
“In the UK today, thousands of people with poor mental health are suffering in silence, unable to share their condition or illness with colleagues or managers at work. When they do reach out for support, many are met with an inadequate response. Our Mental Health at Work report found that 9% of employees who experienced symptoms of poor mental health experienced disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. It also found that only 11% discussed a recent mental health problem with their line manager, and half of employees would not discuss mental health with their line manager.
“The toll of mental health on individuals significantly impacts on businesses, costing UK employers £26 billion per year. However, a preventative approach to wellbeing could save employers around £250 million per year.
“We urge employers to take three actions:Talk: break the culture of silence that surrounds mental health by taking the Time to Change Employer’s Pledge; Train: invest in basic mental health literacy for all employees and first aid training in mental health to support line manager capability; and Take action: ask their employees about their experience of mental health at work in order to understand the reality of how the organisation approaches and responds to mental health.
“I hope that this announcement will lead to more employers recognising the relevance of this issue and taking action to normalise conversations around mental health. The evidence is clear: employers will reap the benefits of reduced staff sickness absence and ultimately a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.”
Business in the Community is currently working on two toolkits for employers on Suicide Prevention and Suicide Postvention (guidance on how to respond to suicide in the workplace) in partnership with Public Health England and The Samaritans. The toolkits will be available by early May.