Supporting workers’ mental health needs is “crucial”

04 Sep 2023

Employees’ mental health needs are forecast to continue rising, according to new research, with most large employers stating their concerns are gradually climbing. According to the Business Group on Health’s 2024 Large Employer Health Care Strategy survey, 77% of the 152 US employers questioned reported a rise in their staff’s mental health needs, whilst 16% expect this to increase further in future. This comes amid an environment of ongoing illness issues in Britain – according to figures from the Office for National Statistics – with more than 2.5 million people economically inactive at the moment due to long-term absence. Alongside these studies, as well as a Deloitte report last year revealing that mental ill health costs businesses around £56 billion a year, employers need to boost investment in this area, says the head of people, wellbeing and equity at Mental Health First Aid England, Alicia Nagar. “Employers should listen to what their people need and their concerns and ensure that any wellbeing strategy reflects the requirements of their people… as for business leaders, the need to support everyone’s mental health – graduates, non-graduates, apprentices and experienced workers alike – has never been greater,” she stated. Furthermore, with NHS waiting lists rising, employees are turning to their employers more and more for mental health support. “Both physical and mental health support systems need to be on offer from businesses…we know that mental health issues can also lead to physical issues, so making sure support is offered from all angles is crucial,” says Headspace director Simon Miller.


Health and wellbeing provision 

Furthermore, the Business Group on Health’s findings shows the popularity of virtual health and wellbeing provisions has fallen. Back in 2021, 85% of employers said virtual health would affect overall delivery, compared to 64% this year. Maintaining robust health and wellbeing processes is essential, says Laura Tracey, employment partner at Freeths, such as understanding conditions or disabilities, manager check-ins, work personalisation and return-to-work meetings. “A combination of an open, supportive environment in which employees can raise concerns about health issues and effective processes to manage absence when it occurs should help employers to minimise absence levels, retain employees and reduce legal risk,” she stated.


Declining health 

UK-based employers could be facing a decline in overall employee health, with The Health Foundation predicting over 9.1 million people will suffer “major illnesses” by 2040, People Management reports. “There will be a need [for HR] to think about the flexibility of resources to help fill gaps and to look at an increased utilisation of temporary workers. There should be an increased focus on health promotion now and looking into benefits such as 24/7 GPs and health cash plans,” said Idris Arshad, people and inclusion partner at St Christopher’s Hospice.