UK businesses are losing hundreds of days every year to the poor mental health of their workforce, with the problem more acute amongst those aged between 16 and 24.
New research from the mental health charity Unmind and reported in The Times (11 September) suggests that over half of the UK workforce has taken sick leave due to mental health problems during the last six months.
56% of 16–24-year-olds have taken time off work due to stress, anxiety and depression, falling to 33% of those aged between 45-54 and 12% aged over the 55s.
The survey also reports that a third of the 2,000 people surveyed say they are questioning their ability to continue to work because of their mental health.
Government statistics back up the survey’s findings, saying that 2.6 million people are off work because of stress, anxiety and depression, with many citing the Covid pandemic, cost-of-living crisis, high mortgage rates and long NHS waiting lists for counselling exacerbating the problem.
Dr Nick Taylor, the CEO of Unmind told The Times: “For younger adults, the modern workplace can be very isolating. The shift to working from home means they might be working from their bedroom in shared accommodation, on back-to-back video calls. It can be hard to find work-life boundaries.”
He adds: “Younger people are under the most financial pressure. People in their later years have accumulated wealth and may own a house, which means they can be more resilient in an economic downturn. But if you’re trying to get a foot on the housing ladder, and save up a deposit, that is going to impact wellbeing.”
Unmind on its website offers an interactive tool that estimates the number of people in an organisation suffering from a mental health issue, the days lost every year to mental health and the cost to a business.
An employer with 100 employees can, for example, expect to have 17 people suffering from a mental health issue, with 430 days lost, costing the business £130,000.
Duty of care
Rhian Radia, Partner and Head of Employment Law at Bishop & Sewell says: “Employers have a duty of care to their employees and that extends to both their mental and physical wellbeing. A mental health workplace policy is the starting point in defining how a business responds and supports its workforce, but that is often not enough. The need to remove the stigma often associated with mental health is also needed. A careless comment or action from a colleague or line manager can easily leave the organisation exposed to potential tribunal claims.
“The stigma attached to mental health can be addressed by regular training that recognises the different ways we now choose to work and the mental health issues that can arise. A culture that supports good mental health and wellbeing, where employees feel comfortable discussing these issues without fear or sanction is vital.
“Additionally, businesses might want to explore steps that avoid staff feeling isolated and lonely which can occur with prolonged periods of working from home, provide independent financial advice, promote exercise and a healthy diet, and ways to encourage good sleep.”
There are good financial and legal reasons for businesses to tackle this mental health crisis.
Contact our Employment Solicitors
Rhian Radia is a Partner and Head of the Bishop & Sewell Employment team. For initial advice or to arrange a meeting the Employment team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 7631 4141
The above is accurate as at 15 September 2023. The information above may be subject to change.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.