Almost one in three employees have experienced mental health issues, according to new research.
There is still a significant way for employers to go to better support staff with mental health issues. Credit: Fotolia
The number of people saying that they have experienced mental health issues while in employment has climbed from a quarter to a third over the last five years.
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Despite this, the majority of employees still feel unsupported at work.
In response, the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, is calling on organisations to take a more preventative approach to employees’ mental wellbeing, encouraging a culture of openness in their workplace, while at the same time, training line managers to provide and signpost support for employees, in order to create healthier, more engaged and more productive workplaces.
The new research from the CIPD found that in 2016, almost a third (31 per cent) of the over 2,000 employees surveyed said they have experienced a mental health problem at some point during their working life, compared with a quarter (26 per cent) in 2011.
Of those who have had poor mental health at work, more than four in ten (42 per cent) have experienced a problem in the past 12 months specifically, to the extent it has affected their health and wellbeing.
Despite this increase, the number of respondents who say their organisation supports employees with mental health issues either ‘very’ or ‘fairly well’ remains less than half (46 per cent).
While this is a significant improvement of nine percentage points since 2011 — when just 37 per cent of respondents said their organisation was able to support employees either fairly or very well — it highlights that there is still a significant way for employers to go to better support staff with mental health issues.
Worryingly, just four in ten employees (44 per cent) would currently feel confident disclosing unmanageable stress or mental health problems to their current employer or manager, a similar proportion as reported five years ago (41 per cent).
Rachel Suff, Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD, comments: “With people’s experiences of mental health problems at work on the increase, it’s disappointing not to see more employers stepping up to address them.
Mental health should get just as much attention, awareness and understanding as physical health, and employers have a responsibility to manage stress and mental health at work, making sure employees are aware of, and able to access, the support available to them.
“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.”
The CIPD’s survey also asked employees what types of support their employer currently provides to manage and help people with mental health problems.
The most common provisions were phased return to work (32 per cent of employees), access to flexible working arrangements (30 per cent), access to occupational health services (27 per cent) and access to counselling services (27 per cent).
The least common provisions were mental health first aiders (3 per cent), mental health champions (5 per cent), and training for line managers in managing and supporting people with mental health problems (10 per cent).