Mental health issues cost British business £30 billion every year… Acas has just launched a new guide aimed at dealing with one of the last remaining taboos in the business world – mental illness in the workplace.
This issue is estimated to cost British business as much as £30 billion every year as a result of lost productivity because employees do not attend work or are unable to perform at their normal level. According to the charity, the Centre for Mental Health, a total of 91 million work days are lost due to stress or mental health problems every year. The lost days account for about half of the £30 billion of reduced productivity while the other half is lost as a result of employees showing up for work when they are in no fit state to carry out their duties in an efficient manner.
The Acas guide aims to tackle the problem by helping employers or managers to spot the warning signs of mental illness or excess stress levels among their employees. The guide is also intended to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and to make the issue less of a taboo by encouraging staff to speak out if they are affected. The guide states that the key point employers should be aware of is to develop an open and communicative culture so that staff feel able to discuss their problems in a supportive environment.
John Taylor, the Chief Executive of Acas described the problem: “The stumbling block at the moment is that many employers and managers shy away from dealing with mental illness at work because it can be hard to pin down and it is a very sensitive matter to deal with.
“People tend not to want to talk about mental illness because they think it is something disturbing that it is easier to avoid.
“But we all need to develop a new way of looking at mental health and break down the taboo. There needs to be a willingness to discuss mental health and a culture where employers understand it and try to help their employees recover from mental illness.
“Our mental well-being is as much a part of health as our physical health. And we need to take into consideration that one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem at some point in our lives.”
Acas has worked in conjunction with NHS agency Workways in publishing the guide – Waterways are an organisation that specialises in tackling mental health issues at work.
The Department of Health estimates as much as one in four people will experience a mental health problem, while another recent government-funded study reports that almost one in three workers commonly suffer anxiety, stress or panic attacks due to work pressures.
Another survey by the CIPD, with healthcare insurance company Simplyhealth, discovered that stress is now the number one cause of long-term absence in the workplace.
Acas hope that their new guidebook will help bring an end to the stigma of mental ill-health and the campaign is backed by the Government and will run until March 2015.