Employers must combat the stigma around mental health in the workplace and encourage flexible working as part of measures to improve mental wellbeing for employees.
That was the message from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in guidance issued today to help cut the estimated 13.7 million working days lost in the UK each year through work-related mental health conditions.
The guidance said employers should integrate the promotion of mental wellbeing into all workplace policies and practices, including those related to employment rights and working conditions.
Tackle stigma and discrimination
Processes for job design, selection, recruitment, training, development and appraisal should reduce the potential for stigma and discrimination, while systems should be in place for assessing and monitoring wellbeing, such as staff surveys, it added.
Staff experiencing stress should be identified early and offered support, such as counselling, with primary care trusts and occupational health services helping to deliver this in smaller and medium-sized organisations, Nice said.
It added flexible working could help enhance employees’ sense of control and promote job satisfaction, and managers should seek to accommodate appropriate requests from staff.
Strengthened role for line managers
The guidance also called for a strengthened role for line managers in promoting wellbeing through a supportive management style, and said this should be a factor in the recruitment, selection and training of managers.
Nice said that by following the recommendations an organisation with 1000 employees could save an estimated £250,000 a year through reduced absenteeism and increased performance.
The guidance was welcomed by mental health charity Rethink, which has developed a toolkit for councils and the civil service to help managers support their staff that it wants to extend to the private sector.
Policy manager Antonia Borneo said: “We urge employers to recognise that everyone has the potential to develop a mental illness and to challenge stigma in the workplace so that individuals feel they can be open about their mental health.
“We also want employers to realise that every mental health problem is different and reasonable adjustments need to be personal to each individual.”