Just how understanding are employers about mental health in the workplace?


This is the second report released by Business in the Community, in partnership with MHFA England, Mind and others. It’s drawn from the findings of the ‘National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey’ that was sponsored by Mercer and undertaken by YouGov of 3,006 full and part-time employees. It aims to provide a comprehensive assessment to attitudes towards workplace mental health.

Generally speaking, there’s much more awareness around mental health issues in society. This is good news. However, on a practical level, when it comes to how this is handled in the workplace, it’s clear that employees and employers are still struggling.

53% of people feel comfortable talking about mental health at work. However, for those that disclose their issues, there’s been a 6% increase on last year (15% compared with 9%) of those employees who face dismissal action or demotion as a result. This could equate to as many as 1.2 million people in the UK.

Interestingly, for the generations who are ‘growing’ up talking about mental health issues, young people are more likely to have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition (37% vs 29% of employees in their 50s). But they’re less likely to talk about these with their bosses – with only a third of 18-29-year olds feeling comfortable to do so. And only 43% of BAME employees felt able to talk about mental health at work, in comparison to 54% of white employees.

Now, of course, what we’re not privy to is the individual stories and circumstances behind these demotions and dismissals. Employers have a legal obligation to follow certain processes before taking such action, so they’d be unwise to do so without just cause. Perhaps these employers might argue that the mental health issue was not the contributing factor to the dismissal or demotion, merely coincidental. Or, in the case of demotion, they might even argue that this is positive action to alleviate pressure points that might exacerbate their employee’s condition. But, no matter what the back story, these figures give rise for concern.

In response, Poppy Jaman, CEO of Mental Health First Aid England said, “It’s encouraging to see that attitudes towards mental health in the workplace are shifting, however this report demonstrates that employers are still failing to translate increased awareness into action. Worryingly, over a million people who disclosed a mental health issue to their employer have faced negative consequences or even dismissal. 

"With World Mental Health Day on 10 October, the time to act is now. We will only see a culture change across our workplaces when employers value mental health as they do physical health, which is why we want to see every employer who trains staff in physical first aid to also offer Mental Health First Aid.

"While only 11 per cent of people feel able to disclose a mental health issue to their line manager, it’s clear there’s more work to do. Awareness, talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation. But to better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to offer mental health training.”

Thursday, 5 October 2017

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Just how understanding are employers about mental health in the workplace?
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