People remain reluctant to admit to mental ill health even when it forces them to take time off work, a study by employment experts XpertHR reveals.
The survey of more than 300 organisations found that nine out of ten (88.1%) believed that some employees had taken sickness absence due to mental ill health in the previous 12 months. But overwhelmingly (78.5%), they also reported that employees had not always disclosed the real reason for their absence.
This stigma around the issue in many workplaces means that employers miss opportunities to intervene early in order to minimise the amount of time lost to sickness absence, as well as the potential severity of the episode.
The survey of 303 organisations, together employing more than half a million people, found that just one in five (21.1%) has a formal mental health policy or strategy in place, with most (47.9%) running mental health wellbeing initiatives on an ad hoc basis.
And although line managers have an important part to play, often being expected to assume responsibility for managing employees experiencing mental ill health, few get the training they need to do the job well.
Just one respondent in seven (14.9%) rates line managers as very effective in managing employees with mental ill health. And just one organisation in five (22.1%) ensures that training in mental health first aid is offered to line managers.
Despite this, there are indications that employers are increasingly willing to tackle the issue. Three in 10 (29.7%) of those surveyed have appointed mental health first-aiders who are trained to recognise the signs of mental ill health and provide initial stages of support. A further one in three (35%) has training planned in the next 12 months.
XpertHR senior HR practice editor Noelle Murphy said:
“Mental health is undoubtedly higher up the HR agenda than at any other time. However, much more work needs to be done to ensure organisations have a culture that encourages timely disclosure of mental ill health – this is turn allows for early intervention, that may minimise the length, severity and impact of a mental ill health episode. This is the development of skills and competence among line managers, and resources need to be found to do just this.”