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UK firms not doing enough to support staff mental health

New research released to mark World Mental Health Day has found that only half of UK employers have a mental health policy in place.

The report, published by Robert Walters, finds that 97% of professionals believe their employer has a responsibility to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

The findings highlight a disparity between what employees want and what employers offer when it comes to mental health support. For example, 74% of professionals wanted to see support for staff returning from a mental health related absence, but only 50% of companies provide this.

Neil Morgan, associate director at Robert Walters, said: “Professionals (62%) believe that training for managers as mental health ‘first aiders’ is important - but our research found that only 38% of companies have such a policy in place.”

The survey also reveals that 76% of professionals would be uncomfortable discussing mental health at their place of work, for fear of damaging their career prospects.

“This is a major red flag,” said James Murray, director at Robert Walters. “Employers need to step up and consider how prominent a role they can play in encouraging their staff to be more open.”

Businesses should publish details of their mental health policies, the report concludes. Just 3% of companies mention their mental wellbeing strategies in job adverts and 64% of professionals say it is difficult to find such information on a company website.

Self-employed workers are also affected by mental health issues and female freelancers are almost twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues than their male counterparts, according to ONS data, highlighted by ActiveQuote on World Mental Health Day.

ActiveQuote is raising awareness about the fact that more insurers now offer the option to cover mental health treatment and care for self-employed workers, with about one in five insurers providing cover for stress, anxiety and depression as standard.

Mark Todd, private medical insurance team leader at ActiveQuote, said: “Choosing self-employment to make your living is, on its own, often more stressful than taking employment elsewhere … It is great that, as a society, events like World Mental Health Day show we are more willing to talk about mental health than ever, and that the insurance market has adapted to this change by covering stress and anxiety as standard in their policies.”