More employers are struggling to manage workers’ mental health

02 July 2024 2 min. read
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There was a 140% increase in the number of small- and medium-sized businesses struggling to manage poor mental health in their workforce compared to the year prior, according to a Peninsula Group report. The HR consultancy in May surveyed 79,000 businesses in Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

“Mental health is now the leading cause of absence, with an estimated 17.1 million days lost to mental health in the UK alone,” said Alan Price, Peninsula Group chief operations officer. “We wanted to understand more the pressures that SME owners are under, and the real life impact this epidemic is having on businesses around the world.”

According to Peninsula, more businesses are turning to employee assistance programs (EAPs) as a financially viable way to offer meaningful support. EAPs are confidential, short term, counselling services for employees with personal difficulties that affect their work performance.

The survey found a 30% increase in the number of employers experiencing poor mental health – with Canadian employers three times likelier to take off time due to mental health than UK bosses.

More employers are struggling to manage workers’ mental health

UK workers, however, are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave compared to a scant 2-3 weeks for Canadians. As such, Canadian employers are nearly four times as likely to offer additional mental health days compared to the UK.

Mental health related absence rose 21% globally last year, with significant increases in Canada and Australia. However, the UK and Ireland reported a decrease in sickness absence year-on-year.

The Peninsula survey also found that there was a 66% increase in the number of businesses introducing mental health first aiders in the workplace, with Ireland in first at 86%.

There was also a 31% increase in employees being more open about mental health concerns. Canada was first, at 59%, followed closely by Australia (52%) in terms of people speaking more on mental health concerns. 

“There is still work to be done to ensure that global workplaces are healthy and happy, both physically and mentally, but it’s clear that progress is being made,” Price added. “The willingness of people to speak about mental health concerns and a change in workplace attitude towards them are major steps in the right direction.”