mh1Absenteeism costs UK businesses approximately £2.4 billion per year and with mental health now being the number one reason for people to miss work, Adrian Lewis Director of absence management software company, Activ Absence argues that employers need to prioritise their response to mental health issues.

The NHS report highlighted a 14% rise in the number of sick notes relating to anxiety and stress between 2015-6 and 2016-7 and according to mental health charity, Mind, approximately one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year. The Royal College of Psychiatrists said the findings of the NHS report were ‘alarming’ and pointed to a need for more to be done to help get people back to work.

Lewis says, “It’s indisputable more must be done to help people return to work, however, preventative measures are often overlooked and companies could be doing much more to identify potential issues early on.

“Professionals agree that early support is key to obtaining a successful outcome for both employer and employee, but all too often employers are only aware of an issue when an employee is signed off sick with anxiety or stress which is too late. By this point, productivity could have been affected for months and the employee will have suffered both at home and work – it’s a lose-lose for everyone involved.

Lewis believes that companies should be monitoring employee absence patterns and producing detailed reports that can be used in conjunction with return to work interviews and analysed to show the true picture of health and mental wellbeing of their workforce. “This insight would ensure accurate targeting of staff wellbeing initiatives, and could help HR and line managers proactively identify employees with possible mental health challenges at an earlier stage, enabling better workplace support.

“By communicating openly about mental health issues, good tracking and monitoring of absence data to keep on top of issues and by proactively signposting support services available through Employee Assistance Programmes, such as counselling, companies can go a long way towards improving the mental wellbeing of their workforce.”