Time for employers to adopt new attitude to tackle mental ill-health in the workplace

Time for employers to adopt new attitude to tackle mental ill-health in the workplace

By William Smith

Data released by Mercer shows that mental ill-health is now the primary cause of staff absence in the UK.

The employee benefit consultancy’s health and benefits survey carried out with 502 companies across Europe found that mental health issues have overtaken musculoskeletal problems as the largest cause of long-term absence.

Mercer has also published data from insurers Unum and Canada Life showing that, in 2010, mental health issues were cited in 30% of income protection claims, making this the primary cause of the 375,000 claims recorded in total.

Employers are now being urged by Mercer to ensure that they are targeting their investment in employee health appropriately in order to tackle the current causes of absence.  The consultancy is concerned that cuts are predicted to NHS mental health services.

In an article for www.hi-mag.com Dr. Wolfgang Seidl, EMEA head of health management at Mercer said that employers now had a much greater understanding of the link between employees’ mental health and productivity.  To ‘remain ahead of the curve’, they should focus on gathering data and putting policies in place.

‘To get a handle on the lack of data and spiralling health care costs, we are advising clients to create a triage system using a qualified member of staff in a gatekeeper role.’ he said.  ‘This allows the company to respond in a more focused manner to employees’ mental health issues. The company can gather good data on mental health in the organisation and from there can allocate resources to the right areas.’

‘Poor mental health and high absence rates leads to high staff turnover, recruitment challenges, high compensation claims, reputational issues and an inability to meet contractual deadlines.’ Warned Dr. Seidl.

A quarter of the UK respondents to the European survey said that their companies had no good access to data on the causes, duration or cost of their employees’ absences.


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