Guest Blog: Jodie Hill

Most employers are aware that mental health issues in the workplace can cause low morale and reduced productivity, but how many employers understand the financial cost to their business?

According to Mindful Employer, the financial cost incurred by British business as a result of mental ill health is an estimated £26 billion per year.  That’s equivalent to £1,035 per employee.





So what can employers do to manage mental ill health?

  • A successful approach is to work with employees to encourage greater awareness of mental health issues.  By challenging preconceptions, it’s possible to change the approach and reaction to mental health.  The first step is to improve communication, which could be done through:
    Delivering mental health awareness training to management teams.  This can lead to improved employee performance, due to a change in their manager’s attitude;
  • Analysis of responses to confidential awareness surveys and comparison of absence statistics.  This informs employers of the potential scale of mental health issues within their business;
  • Developing appropriate policies covering the range of mental health issues likely to occur in the workplace, amongst both management and employees.  This ensures that mental health wellbeing becomes a priority equal to other issues such as accident and loss prevention.

All employers can minimise the impact of mental health issues amongst employees by:

  • Introducing ‘Wellness Recovery Action Plans’ to support the return to work of employees absent due to mental health issues.  This helps employees to understand that their welfare is as important as their return to work;
  • Developing good and open two-way communication to minimise uncertainty when changes are being made in the workplace;
  • Providing telephone helpline numbers for (i.e. Citizens Advice, The Samaritans and Mind) on notice boards, newsletters and in payslips.

Mental Health First Aiders
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 requires employers to satisfy various obligations in respect of equipment and facilities in the workplace, and what should be done if an employee becomes ill or is injured at work.  It’s clear from these Regulations that employers must take first aid seriously and make a commitment to it in all workplaces.  The question must be asked as to why employers aren’t generally encouraged to extend the same attitude towards mental health first aid, as they do for physical first aid.
By skilling employees as Mental Health First Aiders, employers can:

  • Give employees the tools to keep themselves and their colleagues healthy;
  • Encourage employees to access support as soon as it’s needed, for a faster recovery;
  • Empower employees with a long term mental health issue or disability to thrive in the workplace;• Stop preventable health issues arising by building a supportive culture around mental health;
  • Embed positive, long term cultural change across their business through robust policies.

Training a member of staff in mental health first aid can help ensure that there is someone in the office who can recognise the signs of mental ill health as soon as an employee develops them.  Having someone in the office trained in mental health first aid also helps to remove the stigma surrounding the subject.

By taking these simple but positive steps to improve the management of mental ill health, employers can save at least 30% of the cost of lost production and staff turnover.  It is even thought that by spending just 80p on health promotion and intervention, £4 can be saved in costs due to absenteeism, temporary staff and presenteeism.  But perhaps more importantly, employers can ensure that an employee with a mental health issue can be helped through what is likely to be one of the most difficult times in their life, whilst remaining in a supportive workplace.

Further reading:

Mindful Employer information pack

Safety & Health Practitioner

Mental Health First Aid