Employers must do more to tackle mental health says Portsmouth law firm

EMPLOYERS must create more of an '˜open culture' in the workplace so staff can speak out about mental health problems, experts say.

Saturday, 14th January 2017, 6:01 am
Lisa Wallis of Blake Morgan

Portsmouth law firm Blake Morgan says changes must be made to stop employees taking time off because they’re overworked, too stressed and struggling.

It comes in the same week prime minister Theresa May unveiled plans to make mental health a bigger priority and inject £15m into community ‘crisis’ schemes designed to help the vulnerable.

While Portsmouth education bosses plan to introduce talks over anxiety, stress and depression in classrooms.

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Lisa Wallis, Blake Morgan senior associate specialising in employment matters, said: ‘There is a great deal that employers can do to support staff suffering from mental health issues, and many recognise that tackling these issues more pro-actively can benefit both the individual and the organisation.

‘Many employers have adopted initiatives to improve employee well-being and work-life balance such as flexible working and access to employee assistance programmes/counselling services as well as health screening and private medical insurance.

‘One of the best ways of managing mental health in the workplace is to create a more open culture where people feel able to talk about their condition.

‘By taking some relatively simple steps, it is possible to ensure that robust policies and support systems are in place that are of benefit to both the organisation and those who work for it.’

According to the CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016, the average level of employee absence – 6.3 days per employee per year– is at its lowest level for seven years.

But nearly a third of respondents reported an increase in stress-related absence in the past year and two fifths reported an increase in mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

According to the government, more than half of mental health problems start by the age of 14, and 75 per cent have started by the age of 18. In 2014, mental health conditions affected around one in seven of people in full-time employment.