Archive for October, 2017

Report estimates the cost of poor mental health to UK organisations

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in mental health, News, thriving at work

Report estimates the cost of poor mental health to UK organisations

An independent government commissioned review into mental health at work, ‘Thriving at work: a review of mental health and employers’, has found that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, and that 15% of people at work have symptoms of a mental health condition.

The report estimates the cost of poor mental health to UK organisations to be as high as £42 billion, with half of this cost attributed to presenteeism and the rest a result of sickness absence and employee turnover.

“The UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association supports the ‘mental health core standards’ that the report puts forward. This framework, which emphasises the importance of developing mental health awareness among employees and promoting effective people management through line managers, has the potential to be an important tool through which employers and EAP providers can work better together to support employee mental health.

“EAPs are one of the quickest ways for people who are struggling with a wide range of issues to access counselling and related support services and as such they are an effective tool in combating the mental health crisis that we’re facing in the UK. With more than half the UK working population having access to an EAP, according to UK EAPA estimates, we have a tremendous opportunity to support and promote employee health and wellbeing and reducing levels of psychological distress in the workplace,” said Neil Mountford, chair of the UK EAPA.

The ‘mental health core standards’ recommended by the government commissioned review into mental health at work are:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan;
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees;
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling;
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work/life balance and opportunities for development;
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors;
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

You can find out more about the review here.

thriving at work

Employers failing to realise potentially serious consequences of presenteeism

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

Employers failing to realise potentially serious consequences of presenteeism

Nearly one quarter (23%) of employees would only take time off work if they were hospitalised, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance. The study of more than 1,000 employees found that nearly nine out of ten people (89%) said that had gone into work when feeling ill.

When the researchers asked people why they went to work sick, more than two-thirds (69%) said they didn’t think their problem was big enough to warrant a sick day and one quarter (22%) said their decision was due to financial concerns. Alongside this, the culture of their workplace influenced their decision; 34% of those polled said their workload was too high for a day off and 12% said that they would have been made to feel guilty by their colleagues and senior staff if they took time off.

The study also highlights how a culture of presenteeism may affect the health of employees, with nearly half (48%) of respondents reporting they thought they had become unwell because of a colleague’s illness on more than one occasion.

Neil Mountford, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association noted that many employers have failed to realise the potentially serious consequences of presenteeism for an organisation and its people. “An employee who is in work but is poorly, distracted, anxious, depressed and less productive that they would ordinarily be can have a significant impact on safety, productivity and wellbeing,” he said.

Alongside the use of services such as employee assistance programmes to minimise the impact of presenteeism on employees and an organisation, Neil identifies some other practical steps that employers can adopt:

  • Implement line manager training to understand and manage ‘difficult’ employee issues. Many employees suffering from personal or professional problems will feel valued and supported by a line manager who asks how things are or acknowledges that they are in work despite difficult home or work situations.


  • Provide employees with clear guidance in relation to compassionate leave, flexibility in working hours and the organisation’s willingness to offer staff ‘time out’ during the working day to make necessary telephone calls. This may mean the difference between employees coming into work or taking time off from their duties.


  • Communicate the availability of Employee Assistance Programmes. Ensure employees are aware of the service and the type of assistance it can provide with regular promotion; if you’re not in need of such services it’s easy to forget about the range of support services available and how to access them.


  • Cultivate a healthy working environment. Offer staff training in, for example, managing stress in and out of the workplace. Consider launching lunchtime activity clubs or walks, for example, to encourage exercise as well as supportive working relationships across all levels of the organisation.


  • Position line managers as the first line of available support within the business. Develop a confidential feedback forum, for example, for employees to express their ideas and views in relation to policies, procedures and health and wellbeing in the workplace.

To read more about Canada Life’s research click here.

World Mental Health Day – what positive change will you make?

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

World Mental Health Day – what positive change will you make?

This week marked World Mental Health Day 2017, an event that encourages us to think about mental health, how we can improve it and how we can best support those who are struggling with their mental health. The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is mental health in the workplace, something that is an important issue for the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (UK EAPA) and our members.

According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, Oxford Economics and Unum, one in six of the UK workforce experienced mental health issues in 2015 and there is a consensus that there is a growing awareness of the importance of good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

But in light of World Mental Health Day, it is important to ask ourselves what positive steps are we taking now and what strategies do we have planned to ensure that our workplaces are environments that support, nurture and encourage good mental health and wellbeing, says Neil Mountford, chair of the UK EAPA.

Work is good for our mental health and a core role of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is to help employees who are affected by mental health issues to remain in work, whilst at the same time helping them to address and resolve their issues.

Nearly nine out of ten (86%) respondents to the Mental Health Foundation’s recent survey confirmed that they believe their job and being at work was important to protect and maintain their mental health. In fact, people who had been diagnosed with a mental health problem in the last five years were more likely than those who had not to regard their job as very important to their mental health (49% compared with 43%).

So what steps can you take as an employer and a line manager to create a culture of positive mental health in your workplace? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Learn to recognise the signs and symptoms of potential mental health issues

These might be an increase in unexplained absences or an employee calling in sick more frequently, a change in their personality – maybe they’re withdrawn or particularly snappy – or there may be a change in their performance or typical work-rate. You as a manager are best placed to know what is ‘usual behaviour’ for your employees so use this as a benchmark to assess whether you think there is an issue you may be able to help with.

  • Accept that disclosing mental health problems isn’t an option for everyone

Not everyone will want to disclose that they are struggling with their mental health, either because it’s not something they’re ready to address yet or they might be concerned about how they will be treated within the company in the future if they say that they are struggling. This is where a service such as the EAP can really help; openly communicating that this confidential, accessible and professional service is available to employees and that there is no link back to the workplace, is important to positively influence employees’ mental health and their desire to seek help.

  • Appreciate the factors that you can control

As an employer you’re not in a position to control all elements of an employee’s life, influencing what happens out of the workplace, for example. But there are a number of things you can change or introduce to have a positive influence on employees’ mental health. These include an individual’s workload, the type of work they’re being asked to do, the culture of the organisation and also ensuring that open and two-way communications take place wherever possible. Sometimes a temporary adjustment of work-load can make a big difference, so if you know or suspect that an employee is struggling and that the issues they’re experiencing are affecting their mental health, take a moment to see what positive changes you can make.

  • Actively promote health and wellbeing in your workplace

This might mean that you as a manager are proactive and set a good example of achieving a positive work / life balance or encourage employees to take regular breaks from their work throughout the day. Alongside this, you might raise employees’ awareness of services, such as the EAP, that are on hand to provide support and information, as well as counselling in some cases, for individuals who are struggling with any issue that is affecting their performance at work.

To find out more about the Mental Health Foundation’s research and their guide to how you can support mental health at work, click here.

EAPs can help to reduce the cost of mental health absence

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

EAP can help to reduce the cost of mental health absence

According to an article recently published in HR magazine, EAPs are one of a number of ways for employers to reduce the cost of mental health absence and help their employees.

Among the steps that employers can take to reduce the effect of mental health issues on their employees, the article reports line manager training to identify mental health issues among employees, initiatives to tackle stigma such as wellbeing champions and making reasonable adjustments to enable an employee to remain in work, as options for employers to consider.

“Employee assistance programmes (EAPs), as the article explains, can offer a number of counselling sessions as well as support for specific issues such as debt and money worries, as well as personal issues that may be contributing to stress in the workplace.  Communication is one of the key factors to ensuring that EAPs, as well as the other steps outlined in the article, are effective in reducing the impact of mental health in the workplace and when introduced as part of a wider wellbeing and engagement strategy can have a positive impact on organisations and employees,” said Neil Mountford, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

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