Employees need support from mental health helpline – claim

Neil Davies

A large proportion of UK SME owners are calling for a mental health helpline similar to the NHS 111 service, Close Brothers Asset Finance’s quarterly survey of 900 businesses has revealed.

With 84% of respondents backing the notion of a helpline, there is strong support for this type of service, according to Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance.He said: “Statistically, mental health affects one in four people. It’s clear that it impacts both individuals and businesses in a multitude of ways, including economically. For example, mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers almost £35 billion last year, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

“Anything that can be done to get people the correct help, quickly, can only benefit both those affected and the people around them, and while there are multiple helplines available, our research is telling us is that – in the first instance – businesses of all sizes and across all sectors would find it more helpful to refer employees to a single resource.”

Over half (54%) of respondents say that people with mental health are still stigmatised in the workplace. “According to the Mental Health foundation, the social stigma attached to mental ill health and the discrimination people experience can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover,” said Neil. “However, what they also say is that most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help early on, which one of the reasons why UK SMEs are calling for a helpline.”

Neil said that nationally nearly two thirds of firms had policies in place to support employees with mental ill health; however, this falls to just 42% for smaller firms. “Many businesses with lower turnover and smaller staff numbers don’t have the capacity or resources to support colleagues with mental ill health and consequently rely on government support,” said Neil. “However, only 19% of firms employing 10 or fewer people feel that there are sufficient government services – including advice services – for SMEs to help support employees with mental ill health, compared to the national average of 39%.”