Mental Health issues are costing to the UK economy an estimated £105bn a year and represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK.
Recent figures from NHS England,analysing over 12 million “fit notes” issued by GP’s across the Country over 2½ years, show that almost a third of “fit notes” are for mental health problems, making them the most common reason for people to take time off work.
In 20% of these cases the time off work is longer than 12 weeks and the NHS report shows “fit notes” for psychiatric problems are issued for longer periods of time than other types of illness.
This lost productivity is only part of the problem. Another recent study by Canada Life shows that 18% of employees have gone into work when feeling mentally unwell (equivalent to 5.8 million UK workers).
A fifth (19%) said they would be more likely to go into work if feeling mentally unwell than they would if feeling physically unwell, with mental health issues not deemed as severe as physical ones by a significant minority.
This shows that in addition to the considerable workdays days lost to mental health issues there is also substantial “invisible” lost productivity due to “presenteeism”
The pressures of the modern world and workplace appear to contribute significantly to stress and mental illness but there are ways in which employers can help to lessen the burden. The Canada Life research shows that, when asked how employers could make people with mental and physical health issues feel more comfortable taking time off, 37% of workers said the opportunity to work flexibly would help them. A third(34%) of employees said promoting a more positive attitude to health and wellbeing would be beneficial, and a quarter (26%) said it would help if there was less pressure to be “always on” and working.
Other measures that employees said would help them feel more comfortable taking time off when they need it to recuperate included workplace support, such as employee assistance programmes (EAP) (22%) or back to work rehabilitation for longer term conditions (18%).
Ed Watling, Employee Benefits Consultant (Healthcare) at Mattioli Woods commented, “Mental health issues area significant factor in employee health and wellbeing and therefore a substantial factor in reduced productivity. Recent reports by Public Health England show that investment in benefits and work practices which support wellbeing in mental health generate a saving to society of £2.37 for every £1 invested after only one year.
At Mattioli Woods we often find that Companies may already have mental health support facilities such as EAPs built in to group life, income protection and health insurance plans but either they aren’t aware of them or fail to communicate their availability to employees. We recommend that Companies regularly audit their benefits – especially those relating to health and wellbeing, to ensure that they offer suitable assistance to employees in distress.”