Mental Health Issues Still A Taboo Subject (And It’s Costing UK Businesses A Fortune)

In Business, Employee Benefits, Mental Health by Tom McGuinness

New research shows that a significant proportion of European employees are uncomfortable talking about mental health issues in the workplace.

According to the survey by payroll and HR solutions provider ADP, 31% of workers would not feel comfortable disclosing to their colleagues that they had a mental health issue, while 61% of employees said their employer is not interested in their mental wellbeing.

For the research, ADP surveyed 10,585 working adults in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. It was revealed that while 61% of workers would disclose a mental health issue in the workplace, only half (51%) would feel comfortable doing so if they were talking to a close friend or colleague.

Less than a third (31%) would feel comfortable telling their manager and just 13% would feel comfortable telling their HR representative – figures that truly underline just how much of a stigma is still associated with mental health issues in the workplace.

In the UK, workers in the capital are far more likely to disclose a mental health problem than those in the east of the country (75% vs. 55%). Furthermore, younger workers were more likely to tell someone they were suffering from poor mental health than older workers (77% of 16- to 34-year-olds vs. 51% of over 55s).

Speaking about the findings of the research, Jeff Phipps, managing director UK and Ireland at ADP, said communication around the topic of mental health isn’t always easy.

“A good start is to lead by example; if employees see senior figures opening up about stress and mental health battles, it can help them to understand that they can too. And in fact, often the people who suffer the most are an employer’s most senior figures, so mental health should be something that is addressed right across the organisation,” he said.

Mental health costs UK businesses £1.4B a year

Meanwhile, a separate new report has highlighted the cost of mental health stigma on the UK economy.

According to the research by HR software firm Breathe, the stigma associated with burnout and mental health struggles costs the UK economy £1.4 billion a year through unexplained mental health sick days. Instead of disclosing that they are suffering from poor mental health, 23% of workers said they would rather take an unexplained sick day.

Interestingly, despite the fact employers rank mental health issues as the third most acceptable reason to call in sick, only 40% of employees said they would feel comfortable telling their managers they need time off due to poor mental health – a reality that suggests there is still a large gap to close between how employers and employees view mental health issues.

Working with employees in an open way can help them feel more comfortable to disclose any issues they’re facing. This helps create a more engaged, happy, motivated and driven workforce.

It is important that employers continue to raise awareness about mental health and encourage conversations on the topic to be started in the workplace – especially when you consider the cost poor mental health is having on the UK economy.

Tom is the Sales Director for Premier Choice Group. In his role, Tom oversee’s growth across all areas of the business while maintaining a small number of his own clients. At Premier Choice, Tom and the team deliver a unique, personal service to every client, while growing the business and maintaining a strong reputation as the UK’s best intermediary.