A new online service to help employers will launch today in response to the Government’s push for companies to take greater responsibility for employees’ mental health.
Mental Health Solutions in Business (MHSB) encompasses free training for nominated mental health company ambassadors and discounted access to online counselling for employees. It launches as businesses move to protect themselves, and promote workplace well-being, in the face of government legislation.
Businesses’ new well-being advocate’s arrival is timely as mental health-related employment tribunals continue to rise. Mental health-related employment tribunals are increasing faster than any other employment issue. MHSB’s survey, carried out this week across its psychotherapists’ network, shows a 100% increase in their mental health issues caseload over the last three years with a rise of just short of 60% in the number of workplace-related cases for the period.
All of the psychotherapists who responded predicted the trend would continue, more than doubling over the next five years.Results showed that therapists found employers to be roughly evenly split between those likely to pay/ not pay for counselling for staff over the last three years, with the number of those willing to invest slightly higher. Now all businesses will have to comply.
Virtually all of the therapists who responded supported greater help and clearer guidelines for employers.The new service will also keep employers apprised of the latest changes in legislation. Employment issues account for the second biggest share of tribunals court time after social security and child support tribunals (51%). MHSB goes on to say that companies that don’t put reasonable provision in place to support a growing number of workers with mental health issues risk punitive fines and legal bills if they are challenged and found wanting.
The service has been set up as a bespoke service to employers where they can sign up to access a 24/7 365 online counselling service for employees. Some 200 counsellors are on hand to deliver the service – the only online clinic approved by the NHS. MHSB has been set up by directors Bernadette Bruckner and entrepreneurial businessman Steve Jackson. Membership costs from as little as £4 per employee per year.
Within work-related tribunals the area of mental health is the biggest; claims are increasing at an alarming rate. After Prime Minister Theresa May’s 2017 pledge for the Government to work harder to protect and support those with mental health issues, employers have a legal duty of care for the mental well-being of their staff and must now meet the challenge – but are ill-placed to respond.
MHSB’ director Steve Jackson said: ‘Hard on the heels of the GDP shakedown, employers are again being asked to implement a root and branch review of practices and processes. Every good company wants to support their people 100% – but this is a very specialised area where professional help is critical if businesses are to comply.’
MHSB predicts a period of constant changes to the laws in this area. Every year British businesses lose time and money to illness. Around 1 in 6 adults working full-time will at some time be absent from work due to mental health problems.
Mental health is difficult for employers to determine. It is a cover-all for a range of conditions, it isn’t a legal definition and it is personal to each individual. Anxiety, stress and depression all qualify as mental health issues and a high proportion of those with mental health problems are out of work for 12 months or more. Employers now have to find the best way to support their staff across some very complex and highly sensitive areas.
MHSB’s founders say the service will afford employers reassurance that staff mental welfare is being professionally and comprehensively supported as new employer liabilities are tested and enforced. Although no area of employment has been singled out as particularly hazardous to mental well-being, some surveys show a higher prevalence of problems in some sectors.
Co-founder Bernadette Bruckner, said: ‘Provision of a proven professional counselling service is the best way to help employers as they move to comply. Companies that fail to put internal processes in place for handling mental health issues will not only lose valuable competitive advantage and forgo the skills of some of their best talent, they will leave themselves open to claims of discrimination.’
MHSB’s service can be accessed by employees anywhere and at any time, benefits from banking-grade security, is fully tax-deductible and costs between £4 and £30 per employee, depending on the size of the payroll and includes staff training.
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