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127 million hours of absence taken last year due to mental health problems

As devastatingly high figures are revealed - are workplaces doing enough to manage mental health issues in the workplace?

Everyone knows that businesses perform better when their staff are motivated and focused, therefore employee health, both physical and mental is an invaluable attribute of small business success.

Many of us spend 35 hours plus, five days a week at work. So, adopting a welcoming, approachable and inclusive culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health is just the first step towards tackling mental health issues in the workplace.

According to the charity Mind and their guide: How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem, 1 in 6 workers in the UK are dealing with a mental health problem that can stop them performing their best.

A recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reviewed by AXA PPP healthcare, shows that the number of days taken off due to mental health issues has increased by 25 per cent from 2014 to 2015.

The data, which looks at sickness absences in the UK from 2013 to 2015 found the top reasons for absence to be stress, depression and anxiety (17 million hours), followed by musculoskeletal problems (13.8) and upper limb problems (9.4).

Back pain accounted for 9.2 per cent, gastrointestinal problems 9.1 per cent and respiratory conditions 5.5 per cent were also common reasons for work absence.

Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services for AXA PPP healthcare commented:

“It’s interesting to see the ONS report and that the number of employees taking leave as a result of stress, depression and anxiety has spiked in the last year. This may seem like bad news but we should also take note of how many individuals feel more comfortable reporting mental health problems, which was once seen as a taboo illness to admit to.

“However, there are still many unreported cases in UK workplaces, so we estimate the actual number of sickness days taken is sadly much higher than the ONS is reporting. Also, we must remember that all of the other reasons for sickness absence on the list could have a psychological component that exacerbates or causes the symptoms experienced.

“Looking after the physical and psychological health of employees should be of paramount importance to employers, and the benefits are significant. Fit and happy employees with good jobs will be more engaged, their effort and creativity is likely to be higher and they are less likely to have accidents.

Employers don’t have to take on huge costly health programmes to help manage mental ill health – simple, small steps can be very effective.”

Melanie Luff

About the author

Mel wrote for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other global industry publications.


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