While some workplaces may now have strategies aimed at improving staff wellbeing [2012 should be the year we get off the couch and make companies more productive, Tuesday], few yet have addressed the more significant need to support the one in six of the working population who will be at risk of a serious and debilitating mental illness this year.
The reality is that employer awareness of mental health issues at work in the UK is extremely poor. Mental ill health is the most common cause of occupational sickness absence. Its cost to business is just over £1,000 per employee per year, or almost £26bn across the UK economy in sickness absence, presenteeism, reduced productivity and replacing or retraining staff. Yet research shows that if managers are trained to spot the early stages of a mental health problem at work and to respond well they can save employers around 30 per cent of that cost.
While it is easy to criticise efforts to promote “happiness” at work, we should not lose sight of the importance of dealing openly and honestly with mental ill health in workplaces rather than continuing to deny the impact it can have on people’s lives and on UK business.
Andy Bell, deputy chief executive, Centre for Mental Health