Employers are not doing enough to address absence and illness due to stress and mental health issues, a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found.
Government figures suggest that the number of lost working days attributed to stress, depression and anxiety – three inter-related mental health conditions – has risen sharply in recent years. Between 2009 and 2013 the number of days lost to these issues has increased by 24 per cent. Meanwhile, the CIPD carried out a survey that suggests some 40 per cent of respondents have noticed an increase in stress-related absence or other mental health issues over the last year.
The law states that employers have a duty to provide safe working conditions for their employees. This has primarily been interpreted to mean that employers must ensure their staff are not at undue risk from physical injury or illness. However, mental and emotional health is also included under the law – and for good reason. According to the Health and Safety Executive, almost 10 million days were lost to work-related stress in 2014–2015.
Despite this, many employers do not do enough to safeguard their employees from stress-related illness and other mental health conditions. For example, the “always on” culture plays a significant part in the hours employees work and the stress they suffer as a result, since smartphones and mobile devices mean many people are always available to answer emails and keep up with work matters around the clock. This means they are rarely able to switch off properly; working evenings, weekends and even holidays has become the norm.Employers sometimes ignore the effect this has on their staff because of the short-term productivity gains, albeit at the expense of long-term mental and emotional health, as well as work-life balance and job satisfaction.
Workplace culture is slowly changing to reflect the realities of stress-related illness, but there is still a long way to go.
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