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Mental Illness in the workplace – “the last taboo in business”

ACAS has launched its first guide on mental illness in the workplace aimed at tackling what they class as the “last taboo in business”.

Outside of the workplace, awareness of mental illness is increasing and the Government’s Department of Health now estimates that one in four people will suffer a mental health problem during their lifetime. Mental health is still largely seen as a taboo subject within the workplace despite the fact that almost one in three workers are said to suffer work related stress or anxiety.

The mental health organisation, Centre for Mental Health estimates that mental illness within the workplace costs UK employers around £30 billion a year through loss of production, additional recruitment costs and employee absence. Despite this, employers are reluctant to address the issue often because of the potential for upsetting employees and the risk of discrimination claims.

The ACAS guide sets out practical steps and is aimed at assisting employers to:

  • Spot the early signs of mental health issues;
  • Raise awareness amongst all staff of mental health issues;
  • Approach an employee who may have a mental health condition;
  • Offer assistance and support to employees to help them cope with a mental health condition or to overcome it so they can work effectively;
  • Develop a culture within the workplace where an employee feels comfortable disclosing their condition.

Although employers might find it difficult to have these conversations, it is clear that an employer who successfully addresses this issue is likely to see the benefits both in terms of cost-savings, as well as creating an open environment where their employees feel supported.

A copy of the guide can be found here.

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