Why mental health can't be ignored by businesses any more

Short-term sick leave is at a record low, but stress and mental health problems are on the rise, according to a new survey.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 21 Sep 2015

A record number of companies are reporting employees taking long-term leave for stress and mental health disorders and it’s only been rising since the financial crisis kicked off.

More than half said it was a cause of long-term absence, a rise of 7% over the last five years, according to the survey of 335 manufacturers by industry body EEF.  A fifth cited it as the most common cause, up 4% in that period.

‘This possibly reflects, for the first time, evidence of the effect on employees of the long period of recession and austerity,’ EEF said in a statement, although it could also be a result, at least in part, of more people getting diagnosis and proper treatment for stress and the like.

Meanwhile, overall levels of time off for illness fell to a record low of 2.1%, equivalent to 4.9 days per employee every year. However, that level has hovered around 2.2-2.3% since 2010, with EEF suggesting the ‘big inroads into short term absence’ have already been made.

More employers are investing in the health and wellbeing of their staff: two-thirds have sick leave programs and 68% offer occupational health services. However, more needs to be done to tackle mental health issues if that investment is going to actually result in healthier, happier employees.

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