Do People With Mental Illness Need More Support at Work?

Mental illness

Just 5.7 per cent of people in England who suffer from a severe mental illness are in employment, according to statistics. However, it has been proven time and again that work is conducive to good mental health, with aspects such as company and a feeling of purposefulness essential for wellbeing.

However, in some areas in the UK, less than one per cent of people who are currently in contact with secondary mental health services is working, with the national average across England a poor 5.7 per cent.

Severe mental health issues may sound like a small number of people, so not worth your worry as a company, but consider the fact that one in every 100 people across the nation will be diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This is not a problem you are extremely unlikely to face as an employer.

Rethink is one charity currently looking at tackling stigma, matching patients with jobs they can do, and persuading employers to look at people with mental illness.

Mental health and employment

Across the board, the consensus is that more needs to be done to help people with mental health problems stay in work. Recent surveys show that 75 per cent of people with mental health issues got no treatment at all, yet around 70 million working days were lost due to mental illness. This cost the economy somewhere in the region of £70 to £100 billion. The question has to be asked; couldn’t we be doing more to support these people, who are in fact vital members of the workforce?

Sixty to seventy per cent of those suffering from common mental illnesses are in work – but lack of effective treatment can increase the level of sickness absence and reduce productivity levels. Some of the issue still lies in the stigma of mental illness. According to a Friends Life Survey last year, nearly half of employees had experienced mental health issues but chose not to tell their employer for fear of how it would impact their career prospects.

The statistics show that addressing employee mental health and the stigma associated with this should be something businesses are thinking about. By paying greater attention to the mental wellbeing of their workforce, employers can unleash the benefits of a healthier, happy, more productive workforce.

If you’re looking at ways to improve the overall mental health of your workforce, occupational health management is the logical first step. Speak to the team at OHBM to find out how we can help your organisation address mental health issues.

What Are Employers’ Responsibilities At The Work Christmas Party?

Christmas party

The office Christmas party is something most employers and employees look forward to, and with good reason, after all they are normally great fun, a chance for team bonding and more often than not improve staff morale. However without the correct forward planning, what should be a memorable and festive event could well turn out to be a complete disaster.

The reason for this is that there are laws and legislations that require employers to be responsible for their employees when on a work do, even if it is outside of normal working hours. Under these legislations, employers should be aware those they:

• Can be held liable for harm (under health and safety laws) or harassment caused to or by their employees, or for negligent acts of their employees.
• Have a responsibility for their staff’s actions, even outside normal working hours or outside of the normal working environment. Any social event organised by the employer is an ‘extension’ of the workplace – regardless of the place or time of the event
• Could fall foul of religious and possibly sexual discrimination laws. Since October 2010 the Equality Act continues to give protection from sexual harassment but now also gives protection to harassment on the basis of disability, age, gender reassignment, race/religion or belief and sexual orientation.

Drinking too much alcohol

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that alcohol is a big factor in Christmas party-related problems. There are some simple things you can do to try and prevent inappropriate behaviour at your Christmas party.

• If you are having a free bar, limit it so people don’t take advantage and have too much to drink – this lowers the risk of fights, accidents and harassment incidents.
• Try and find one or two staff who agree to stay sober, so that they can look out for any unwanted behaviours.
• Ensure that there are non-alcoholic options available
• Consider the needs of all attendees – Will workers be able to arrange childcare at the time of the party? Are there food requirements to meet all cultural needs? Have you taken into account physical support for any disabled staff? How will everyone get home?
• Tell staff what is expected of them and remind them of the disciplinary action should inappropriate be an issue.
• Inform all staff if they are expected in work, on time, the next day!

Christmas should be a happy time, so ensure your festivities allow it to stay that way.