According to figures reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), during 2016 the estimated working days lost to sickness or injury was 137.3 million. Of these days the top 3 reasons for absence were, firstly minor illness (colds and coughs), followed by musculoskeletal absence (back pain and limbs). The third most common type of illness absence related to mental health issues, “resulting in 15.8 million days lost (11.5%)”. A recent cost analysis conducted by Deloitte during 2017 reported that businesses across all industry sectors are spending sums ranging between £497-£2564 per absent employee. In addition to these costs employers are also likely to experience a drop with productivity and or continuity of service as a consequence of absence. But what if some of those lost work days could be avoided?
It’s not within an employers’ control to prevent employees from catching a cold or suffering from illness. However, it is suggested by a recent report (Thriving at Work) commissioned by the Government, that employers who put in place early interventions to promote mental health wellbeing within the workplace have seen a positive return on the investment made. The Thriving at Work report encourages employers of all sizes to take steps to implement, “mental health core standards” within their business.
What are the mental health core standards?
The standards are essentially recommended good practice interventions that any business regardless of size can put in place to assist in both reducing long term absence caused by mental health and possibly eliminating the root cause of stress at work. In summary the standards are:
- Implement a mental health at work plan, the plan should signpost employees to where they can receive help at work if they are suffering from mental health.
- Develop mental health awareness amongst employees, you can do this by either distribution of information booklets, holding workshops or posting information on your company intranet.
- Encourage open conversations about mental health, from the point of induction and continuing throughout the employment relationship employees should be aware of whom they can speak to if they are experiencing mental health issues.
- Provide employees with good working conditions, treating employees reasonably in terms of pay, job security and maintaining health and safety standards can help staff to thrive.
- Effective people management, Equipping managers and supervisors with the training to know how to identify early signs of distress and how to deal with employees suffering from mental health issues is all part of effective management.
- Monitor employee mental health and wellbeing. You are likely to keep records of staff attendance or use the “Bradford Factor”, absence management calculator to keep track of employee absence. The data collected from these records can be used to understand if any patterns are emerging. If a pattern is present an informal meeting could be held with the employee to understand to discuss their wellbeing. That does not mean you should suggest to the employee the idea that they may have mental health issues wait for the information to be offered voluntarily. Evidence from the Thrive at Work report suggests that it’s far better for businesses to take positive action and deal with mental health issues than not at all.
The implementation of the standards need not be expensive. It will be a matter for each employer as to how much funds they allocate to the standards. However, it’s likely to make good business sense to consider allocating sufficient funds to ensure that the standards are embedded within your business to achieve the desired results.
As always, if you have a legal query please get in touch with the FSB Legal Helpline on 0345 0727727 and we'll be happy to assist you.