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Call for employers to act as one in three face mental health issues at work

Employers are still not doing enough to tackle mental health issues, in spite of a significant increase in the number of those experiencing problems, according to a CIPD report.

The number of people facing mental health issues while in employment has grown to around one in three, according to research. The proportion of people has increased from a quarter to almost third (31%) over the past five years. But most employees say they don’t feel there is enough support in the workplace for those with mental health.

The research involved a survey of more than 2,000 people and 31% of respondents said they had experienced a mental health problem at some point during their working life, compared with 11% in 2011. Some 42% of those who had experienced poor mental health said they had been affected within the past 12 months.

Less than half the of respondents said their employers supported staff with mental health problems “very” or “fairly” well and 44% said they would be comfortable telling their employer or manager they were experiencing unmanageable stress or mental health problems.

As a result, the CIPD is calling on employers to take more of an active role in the prevention of mental illness, and asking organisations to do more to encourage a “culture of openness” within the workplace so that people feel confident discussing mental health. The body is also urging firms to ensure line managers are properly trained to support staff.

Rachel Suff, employment relations manager at the CIPD, said: “This agenda needs to be championed from the very top by business leaders and senior staff – either through role-modelling or open conversations about their own experiences. There’s also a clear role for HR professionals and line managers to ensure that employees are getting the support they need and feel they can speak up.

“It’s crucial that organisations work to promote an open and inclusive culture so that employees feel confident about disclosing mental health issues and discussing the challenges they are experiencing. Promoting good mental health also makes good business sense, as employees are likely to be more engaged and productive if they work for an organisation with a workforce wellbeing strategy that emphasises the importance of both good mental and physical health.”

According to the research, companies are still falling short of what is needed to ensure frameworks are in place to provide an optimum level of support for staff. The survey asked employees about the types of support on offer from their organisations to help people manage mental health problems. Suff said: “The most common provisions were phased return to work (32% of employees), access to flexible working arrangements (30%), access to occupational health services (27%) and access to counselling services (27%). The least common provisions were mental health first aiders (3%), mental health champions (5%), and training for line managers in managing and supporting people with mental health problems (10%).”

The CIPD said businesses are concentrating too much on reactive measures rather than taking a preventative approach to promoting mental wellbeing. “Where possible, employees with mental health problems should be able to access support before problems escalate to a point where they struggle to manage work and their illness, and need to take time out of work. Of course, there will be occasions where people experiencing a mental health problem will need to take time off work and then it’s important that the right framework, including occupational health services and phased return to work, is in place to support them in that situation,” said Suff. She added that training for line managers was essential so that an appropriate response can be made when a staff member needs support.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, the mental health charity, added: “Employees need to be reassured that if they do put their hands up, they’ll be met with understanding, and additional support if necessary.”

Addressing concerns many businesses have that putting preventative measures into place can be a costly venture, Mamo said: “Creating mentally healthy workplaces needn’t be difficult or expensive, often it’s about putting in place small adjustments, such as regular communication and flexible working hours. Being able to identify and support a colleague struggling with poor mental health can also make a big difference, which is why Mind delivers mental health awareness training to line managers.”

Mind is also launching a Workplace Wellbeing Index – a benchmark of best policy and practice which will enable employers to recognise the good work they’re doing when it comes to promoting good mental health at work, as well as highlighting areas for improvement.

At IHC we take employee mental health and wellbeing seriously. Get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can help you to support your staff.

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Bupa has recently issued a reminder about just this matter. In a statement the group said: “Please be aware that we do not provide cover in areas where it would expose Bupa Insurance Limited (or the Bupa group of companies) to any sanction, prohibition or restriction under United Nations resolution or the trade economic sanction, law or regulation of the European Union, United Kingdom or United States of America. If we reasonably consider that by continuing the policy we or you may break any law, regulation, code or court order, we may terminate the policy immediately. This includes, but is not limited to travelling to or through Iran and US citizens travelling to or through Cuba.”

So don’t take any chances – if you are travelling overseas to an area which may be affected by rules such as these, then get in touch to find out the potential impact on your cover.

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