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Employers urged to offer ‘mental health days’ off work

Mental health-related absenteeism costs businesses up to £26.4bn a year

Employers who provide employees with “mental health days” off work will create a more productive workplace, according to Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health.

It is estimated that mental health-related presenteeism costs employers up to three times the cost of mental health related absence.

This equates to an annual cost of £16.8bn to £26.4bn for UK businesses.

Last year, Britons took 137 million sick days, of which 15.8 million were for mental health issues.

“Work is the most common cause of stress in British adults, with 59% of employees suffering from stress in the workplace,” said Holmes. “By reducing stress at work, it will prevent employees taking mental health-related absences in the first place.”

He suggested businesses introduce schemes and techniques such as relaxation sessions, chill-out zones and exercise classes to help employees unwind and switch off from their workload.

Holmes said it is important to encourage employees to talk openly and freely about how they feel mentally, which can be encouraged by line managers being approachable and having an open door policy.

He also recommended encouraging employees to have a lunch break outside, creating a flexible work environment and introducing a workplace wellbeing programme.

“By introducing initiatives like this, businesses are more likely to have a happier and healthier workforce, reducing avoidable absenteeism,” he added.