To support World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10th October), a HR consultant is raising awareness of this critical issue and asking all employers to look beyond temperature checks to make mental health a priority.

According to Mental Health First Aid England, mental ill health is responsible for 72 million lost working days and costs the UK £34.9 billion each year. There were 602,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK in 2018/19, which accounted for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and 54% of all working days lost due to health issues.

In addition, it is estimated that one in six working adults experience mental ill health during their lifetime with incidences- particularly of reported stress and anxiety- almost doubling during the coronavirus pandemic. But despite this, there is still a stigma associated with mental ill-health in the workplace that could be costing millions.

Michael Doolin, MD of Clover HR in Worcester says, “Fear of infection or feeling isolated, along with concerns about job or income loss are just some of the knock-on effects of this pandemic that are all likely to increase the pressure and stress people are under.”

“After weeks of lockdown, which may have included home schooling, furlough or even shielding, the heightened level of anxiety felt by workers who now face the risk of redundancy can make the future feel very daunting.”

Recent studies show that flexible and remote working patterns, which are often used to create a balance between work and life commitments, are in fact causing more burnout amongst those working at home. The recent trend for homeworking caused by the pandemic has led to longer hours for those that feel obligated to continue past the end of the working day now that their office is at home, thus blurring the lines between work time and down time.

To deal with a future that is far from certain, Clover HR is working with local businesses from Worcestershire, Birmingham and across the West Midlands to understand an organisation’s ability to support their staff at a time of ongoing uncertainty and change.

Mr Doolin continued, “For some lockdown has been lonely, restrictive and worrying so it’s important to recognise what impact this is having on each individual and how best to support them in and out of the workplace. Employers need to ensure they address this growing problem of workers mental health because if it isn’t handled appropriately it could have a much bigger impact and cause further issues.”

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) that was created earlier this year has meant employers and the UK Government have contributed to the wages of staff members on furlough. This month however, these payments have decreased with the Government now paying 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 and employers contributing a top up so employees receive at least 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500. This overall decrease in income puts pressure on many to pay household bills.