Mental health set to be a major challenge for 85% of SMEs

We ran our annual SME Business Survey back in November and when asked what the most important aspects of Health and Safety over the next 12 months, mental health came out top. Of those surveyed, 85% of SME business leaders stated that mental health will be their biggest health and safety challenge in 2023, an increase of 6% from 2021.

The Health and Safety Executive published data last year (November 2022) in which it reported 914,000 work related sickness absences cases because of stress, depression, and anxiety.  This equated to 65% of all work-related ill-health cases, which amounted to 1.8 million cases with a total of 17 million lost working days. Official Government statistics confirm that almost 41% of individuals who are on universal credit are in employment, suggesting many businesses will have employees who are financially vulnerable and could be susceptible to poor mental wellbeing.

We also know from research carried out by the charity Mind, that 25% of people experience mental health issues each year, 17% experience mental health issues in any given week and 8%  specifically experience anxiety and depression in any given week.

Poor mental health is predicted to only continue, especially given the cost-of-living crisis.  We would urge employers to put employee wellbeing at the top of the people agenda and for it to underpin the strategic HR plan.  Not only is it the moral thing to do, but identifying appropriate measures that can help combat it will help the business to lower sickness absence rates, improve productivity and avoid unnecessary staff turnover.

Here are some ways you can do this in a cost effective way:

  • Train line managers on dealing with mental health at work, including short and long term absence
  • Introduce an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
  • Train employees to become Mental Health First Aiders
  • Introduce Wellbeing Ambassadors for people to access wellbeing support
  • Link up with local gyms and other health providers to provide discounted membership rates
  • Include mental health in your Health and Safety Policy, or have standalone policies such as a ‘Health and Wellbeing Policy’ or a ‘Financial Wellbeing Policy’.

What can you do if an employee is struggling with their mental health?

Knowing how to support employees with mental health issues is key, especially if an employee comes to you to say that they are struggling with their mental health. This can be a very difficult situation to be in; it may be that you just do not know how to handle the situation, or that you may make the situation worse by asking them about it; or you may worry about saying the wrong thing or not know which words to use.

These feelings can be normal but must not and should not mean you do nothing. What is important, is that as a line manager, you listen and take appropriate action that is within your control from a workplace perspective.

We have created ten tips that you can follow, to help you manage this situation, if it ever arises.

  1. First, do not ignore and deal with their situation promptly. The employee has come to you as a cry for help and seeks support. To do nothing means they are not able to get the right and necessary support at work.
  2. If you are not anywhere quiet, find a quiet area to speak to them, where they can talk more openly to you in confidence.
  3. It is important to let them do most of the talking initially; quite often letting them express how they are feeling, without interruption, can help enormously in that immediate moment where they may be feeling overwhelmed.
  4. What is vital, is to recognise that you are not a medical expert, and so there will be a line in which you can provide support up to. You will most likely know when you are at that line, from the way the conversation is progressing.
  5. Where you feel you are at that line, where you are unable to provide advice they need, then signpost and encourage your employee to access professional support.
  6. Depending on how the discussion has progressed; then you can explore with them what help they need from you and the workplace.
  7. Where poor mental health comes from a work relationship, then it is critical to ensure the employee is aware of their rights for seeking resolution to any issues.
  8. One important and vital activity in supporting employees with poor mental health is to seek medical support from either Occupational Health or their own GP. You will require their consent to proceed with obtaining a medical report, but a report can be extremely helpful in understanding more about their medical condition.
  9. If they remain in work, with appropriate support mechanisms in place, then be sure to hold regular meetings to check in with them on a regular basis.
  10. If they should require a period of sickness absence, then be sure to balance the need of allowing the time off to get better with the need for maintaining contact.

If you would like to read the full update, you can do so here.

Mental health training

We are running our next Level 2 Mental Health First Aid course on 7 March 2023, between 9.30am – 4.00pm at the Kettering Park Hotel.

The course is suitable for all members of staff. It has been designed to help employers to provide a positive mental health culture within the workplace and to provide learners with comprehensive knowledge on a range of the most common mental health conditions and the skills to be able to act should a condition be suspected.

Those who complete the course will be considered First Aiders for Mental Health and be a point of contact within the workplace to help and support those with any mental health issues. This qualification lasts for three years.

If you are interested, or know of anyone who may be, you can register via our website

We are here to help

If you are unsure how to support your employees with their mental health, or would like to discuss our HR, Payroll, or Health and Safety services, please contact us and speak to a member of the team.




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