New analysis from HR and diversity consultancy, the Clear Company, has revealed that HR professionals will, on average, oversee 15 staff with mental health conditions each year.
Furthermore, the UK Workplace Wellbeing Survey identified mental health in the workplace as the second biggest challenge facing employers in the next five years, with respondents stating that 26% of workplace absences were down to psychological conditions.
According to figures from XpertHR, the median number of employees per HR practitioner was 62.5 in 2016. Meanwhile, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year according to mental health charity, Mind.
Employers are already putting interventions in place to support staff, with 81% offering line manager training (around recognising stress within the workplace), 75% offering occupational health support, 72% offering employee assistance programmes and a further 62% offering separate counselling support.
However, according to a recent study by Legal & General, less than 10 per cent of employees feel comfortable disclosing mental health conditions to their employer – meaning that HR may face a challenge in identifying and supporting these individuals adequately.
Commenting on the findings, Kate Headley, Director at the Clear Company, said;
“HR professionals are required to assist employees with mental health conditions under the Equality Act 2010. However, low levels of disclosure continue to be a barrier to support.
“With this in mind, HR strategists should look at ways to foster a culture of openness which actively encourages staff to share their needs on an ongoing basis so that they can be fully supported. Reasonable adjustments for candidates and employees with mental health conditions may include; support with managing workload, flexible hours to allow for periods of rest, a desk in a quiet area of the office to help manage anxiety, time off work to attend appointments or a little extra time to make decisions to help manage stress. Ultimately, no one is in a better position than the person living with a mental health condition to determine what support they need – but HR can only get the ball rolling once lines of communication are opened.”
Absence management expert Adrian Lewis from Activ Absence believes strongly that employers should look to improve support at work for anyone they identify as at risk for stress:
“Whilst employers can work on creating a more open culture where employees realise they will be supported and not judged if they disclose a mental illness, it’s also important to be proactive. Not everyone will even recognise the symptoms in themselves. By combining absence management data and line manager feedback with information gained from supportive return to work interviews, employers should aim to identify those potentially at risk and increase support at work for those individuals, whether they tell you they have a mental health condition or not. A supportive work environment is good for productivity anyway!”
Laura Matthews, Wellbeing Consultant at Barnett Waddingham, added:
“Employee mental health is very much on the agenda for UK companies and they recognise the impact it can have on their workforce. However, it takes time to build a culture that supports mental health, whilst reducing the stigma and enabling people to seek the help they need.
“Employers should ensure that there is an open and honest environment when it comes to discussing mental health issues within the workplace and having dedicated mental health first aiders can support this. By simply raising awareness and ensuring managers are well equipped in respect of training and understanding the available support pathways, employers can take the first step at tackling mental health in the workplace.”