Generation Z (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s) have entered the workplace. This iGen or Centennial generation have never known a world without the internet or smart phones. This causes its own issues with individuals creating anonymous online accounts and using them to publicly send hurtful messages or threats to themselves, known as “digital self-harm”. 1 in 10 children suffer with poor mental health. In addition, with greater mental health research it is therefore not surprising that since 2011 there has been a rising rate of depression and suicide. In an attempt to address this national issue Theresa May has recently committed to £1.8 million of investment to reduce the number of people taking their own lives and has appointed the first ever minister for suicide prevention.
We all have mental health. Mental health is no different from physical health and it is important employers recognise their increased responsibilities for encouraging good mental health in the workplace. Stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence. Mental ill health is responsible for 91 million working days lost every year. With one in four adults in the UK suffering from mental ill health, estimated costs are an average of £1,300 per annum for every employee in the UK either because they are present at work but less productive or absent. There is no legal definition for “mental health” but variants can include mental illnesses, mental health conditions and emotional well-being.
Following last year’s Government review Thriving at Work the Stevenson / Farmer Review of mental health and employers where core and enhanced employer standards were outlined, we anticipate that there will be a drive for increased expectation of employer activity especially from larger employers. Firstly, we anticipate a requirement for compulsory Mental Health First Aiders or Ambassadors within the workplace. These individuals would be able to respond to a potential crisis by utilising their knowledge about identifying symptoms of mental health, offering initial assistance and directing a person towards specialist support. Secondly, we also expect that businesses will be required to demonstrate commitment from the top by establishing a mental health charter or pledge. Thirdly, we believe a mental health metrics or index will be required.
Improving mental health is high on the political agenda. A workplace that has a high mental wellbeing score is more attractive and likely to retain staff. Proactively putting into place core and enhanced mental health initiatives will help productivity, reduce absenteeism / presenteeism and, avoid discrimination claims by treating people with mental ill health with dignity.
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