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A third of employers think public reporting will boost mental health

Poor workplace mental health is often a hidden issue

Nearly a third (30%) of UK employers believe mandatory public reporting of workplace mental health statistics would increase transparency and accountability and help to tackle the issue, a survey shows. 

The survey from Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing of more than 150 HR professionals considered the recommendations made in the Thriving at Work report – in particular, the suggestion that large employers and all public sector organisations implement a set of “enhanced” standards to improve the collective mental health of their employees. 

The suggested enhanced standards include increasing transparency through internal and external reporting, demonstrating accountability and improving the disclosure process. Almost one in three (30%) employers were supportive of this suggestion and more than half (52%) were open to the idea, subject to the detail of the requirements. Only 14% of organisations thought these measures would not help. 

Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden, said poor workplace mental health is often a hidden issue so it will benefit all concerned if company level data was made public. 

The survey also found that employers may be experiencing very different levels of ill-health absenteeism as a result of poor mental health, anxiety or stress.  Almost half (44%) of respondents thought these conditions accounted for between 20% and 40% of their total sickness absence figures. 

Other responses suggested a very wide variance, with one in 10 employers suggesting that these conditions accounted for more than half of their corporate absenteeism, and the same number indicating that these conditions were the cause of less than 10% of overall absence.

“However employers choose to look at this issue, it is clear poor workplace mental health is bad news for both the employee and the employer and is a measure that all good organisations are now actively looking to improve,” said Herbert. “There is a wide-range of employee benefits offerings that can assist in this mission, and we would strongly encourage more employers to seek professional assistance in using these tools as part of a robust mental health plan and solution.”

A separate poll by XpertHR suggests people remain reluctant to admit to mental ill-health even when it forces them to take time off work.

The survey of more than 300 organisations found 88.1% believed that some employees had taken sickness absence due to mental ill-health in the previous 12 months. But 78.5% also reported that employees had not always disclosed the real reason for their absence.

Just one in five (21.1%) businesses had a formal mental health policy or strategy in place, with most (47.9%) running mental health wellbeing initiatives on an ad hoc basis.