Avoiding the business cost of mental health issues - Business Works
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Avoiding the business cost of mental health issues

by Amanda Mcburney, Senior Manager, Vocational Rehabilitation, Remploy To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (12-18 May 2014), Amanda Mcburney, vocational rehabilitation Manager at Remploy, explains why it is vital that people with mental health conditions are helped to stay in work.

One in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health condition in any given year, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating the cost of mental health to the UK economy at £70 billion per year or, put another way, 4.5% of the country's GDP (gross domestic product).

The annual cost to UK employers of mental ill health at work is thought to be £26 billion, which averages out at £1035 per employee.

15.2 million days lost due to stress, anxiety and depression

To add to the blizzard of worrying statistics, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that 15.2 million days of sickness absence across the UK in 2013 were caused by stress, anxiety or depression, compared to 11.8 million days in 2010.

Companies that don't take the issue seriously risk exposing themselves to higher staff turnover, reduced competitiveness and damaged corporate reputation. I urge employers to promote positive employee mental wellbeing.

A recent survey of employees diagnosed with a mental health condition found that fewer than half told their bosses after being diagnosed, which shows too many people still think admitting to having mental ill health will make them look weak.

For exmaple, the Highways Agency which looks after England's network of motorways and major 'A roads' - recognised that mental health related illness was the main cause of absence across the organisation. This was in spite of the range of support already available, including occupational health provision, an Employee Assistance Programme and a stress toolkit. They turned to us at Remploy to to develop a training programme for managers so that they would feel more confident in supporting employees with mental health issues.

We worked with members of the mental health working group (drawn from line management, staff and trade unions) to understand the needs of the Agency before developing a bespoke training package for line managers. The material was piloted with members of the group to ensure that it delivered against expectations and the group's feedback helped refine the materials. This collaborative approach meant that the material linked into existing policies, tools and support.

The programme proved hugely successful, delivering 14 half-day sessions earlier this year to more than 120 managers who are now putting their learning into practice. Managers who attended the training felt their ability to support mental wellbeing was much improved, with average scores of at least 4.1 out of 5 with the majority of responses averaging 4.3 or more. The average score for recommending the course to others was 4.5 out of 5, with 58 per cent scoring a maximum 5.

the annual cost to UK employers of mental ill health at work is thought to be £1035 per employee

We provide support for candidates at more than 60 branches across the country, from Aberdeen to Plymouth. Many candidates have struggled to find employment because of their complex barriers to work, so getting a job is a life-transforming experience. However, as important as it is to find jobs for people who are furthest from the employment market, this is only one element of Remploy's services. Helping people stay in work is, arguably, equally important.

In December 2011, Remploy won contracts to run the Government's flagship Workplace Mental Health Support Service (WMHSS), in Britain. Since then, its specialist vocational rehabilitation team has helped more than 2300 people who were at risk of losing their jobs because of their mental health conditions.

WMHSS provides six months' work-based support to enable individuals with mental health conditions to retain their employment. The support may involve assistance developing work based coping strategies or identifying reasonable adjustments, education and guidance for managers and signposting to additional mental health support and resources. It is impartial and confidential, comes at no cost to either employer or employee, can be delivered with or without the support of the employer and is delivered by experts who understand mental health and its impact in the workplace.

Ninety per cent of clients who completed the scheme are still in work. I'm hugely encouraged by the high success rate achieved so far we have helped people who, without support, may well have fallen out of employment and be claiming benefits. I'm also delighted by a significant increase in referrals over recent months. The service is becoming more well-known and its success stories are a big factor in that. WMHSS is helping employees manage their condition at work and stay well and productive. It also helps employers create an inclusive and diverse workforce. And of course it is helping the UK economy, by reducing absence and turnover.

For more information, please visit: www.remploy.co.uk

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