United Kingdom

HR team members support up to 15 employees a year

June 2017


HR professionals are responsible for the wellbeing of up to 15 employees with a mental health condition each year, new research has found.

According to The UK Workplace Wellbeing Survey, carried out by HR consultancy the Clear Company, mental health is expected to be the second biggest challenge for businesses over the next five years.

To combat this, the majority of employers are introducing a series of interventions, with 81 per cent providing training for line managers to help recognise workplace stress, 75 per cent offering occupational health support, 72 per cent providing employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and an additional 62 per cent offering counselling services.

But according to Charles Alberts, senior consultant and mental health specialist at Aon Employee Benefits, employers providing a broad range of benefits could be wasting their money if benefits were provided in isolation and employees were unaware of what was available.

"If all the benefits and services available are not communicated in a clear and logical manner, then the chance of people using them is far less," Alberts warned. "Communication is a vital step and getting it right is becoming more complex when considering the modern day diverse and multi-generational workforce."

Alberts advised a 'deep-dive analysis' of existing data which would help employers identify the benefits and services that employees currently use whilst understanding the underlying issues. A strategic framework, which takes a holistic approach to mental health would help to identify any gaps in benefits provision.

"Such a framework would typically start at the most important place - prevention. How do we help prevent employees developing mental health problems? What is within our control or influence? Are there any areas where the workplace itself is causing poor mental health?" Alberts said.

"And for when things go wrong, how do we support employees with early identification, proactive intervention, treatment and long-term support? Current market offerings tend to focus on intervention and treatment, whereas there are far fewer options for employers at either end of the scale."

But Kate Headley, Director at the Clear Company warned that low levels of disclosure around mental health continued to be a "barrier to support".

In particular, recent studies have suggested that employees continue to feel uncomfortable talking to their employer about mental health conditions. A Legal and General study, for instance, found that less than 10 per cent felt comfortable disclosing mental health conditions.

Earlier in May, Aon reported that 75 per cent of employees admitted they were "unlikely" to seek support from their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem, according to Mind's Wellbeing Index Report, whilst a BBC Radio 5 survey found that half of working adults said they would not talk to their boss if they were struggling with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Headley commented: "HR professionals are required to assist employees with mental health conditions under the Equality Act 2010...HR strategists should [therefore] look at ways to foster a culture of openness which actively encourages staff to share their needs on an ongoing basis so that they can be fully supported."

Alberts added: "It's important to understand the reasons why people are reluctant to discuss mental health issues. People may be worried about being treated differently, being perceived as less competent, being overlooked for new opportunities or at worst, losing their jobs. But the more employers encourage open discussions about mental health in the workplace, the more informed people become about the issues which can lead to an increased level of mental health literacy and challenging stigma."




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