Danny McCance 8 Aug 2018 11:05am

Awareness of mental health in the workplace increases

Almost a third of business leaders (30%) have noticed an increase in the number of staff taking leave due to mental health issues over the past three years

A similar proportion (33%) have also seen an increase in the length of time individuals are taking off, according to research from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and insurance company Aviva.

The joint survey, the first of its kind on the subject, suggests that attitudes to mental health issues are shifting, with businesses becoming more aware of its impact on the workplace.

The research found that 35% of businesses are reviewing flexible working options for staff, while 36% are now reviewing individuals’ workloads.

However, more still needs to be done, as 49% of businesses did not offer access to occupational health support for their staff and only 20% of businesses are organising counselling for staff, while 18% are providing training for managers and support workers.

One in 10 businesses were not aware of any support.

“Looking at our claims data for protection insurance we know that mental health conditions are the number one reason for rehabilitation referrals, and that early intervention by experts can bring a huge benefit to employees, helping them make a safe and timely return to work,” said Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva.

“While legions of firms are now more aware of mental health concerns and acting accordingly, far too many businesses are still turning a blind eye to this issue, which saps productivity, morale and individual wellbeing,” said Adam Marshall, director general at BCC.

He suggested that tackling mental health need not be a major cost for businesses and that actions such as reviewing workloads flexible working options alongside improving management skills are simple measures.

Research in October last year found that failure to properly manage workplace mental health could be costing the UK economy as much as £99bn a year.

There are businesses trying to change this however, as in April mental health charity Mind named Jessica Carmody, chair of KPMG’s mental health network, employer champion of 2018.

However more still needs to be done. In January, research suggested that 30.4% of accountants suffer from mental health issues, while research released in June found that 53.3% of accountants have considered resigning from their roles due to lack of support over mental health.