Yorkshire bosses urged to tackle staff mental health

Yorkshire employers are being urged to ensure they’re looking after staff mental health, as new figures show mental health is the number one reason for people taking long periods of time off work.

Caroline Frank said employees should feel like they're able to speak to their bosses

The number of instances of people being signed off work for longer than a week for mental health reasons in the year to March was the second-highest period on record.

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The Federation of Small Businesses has called for better mental health awareness in the workplace to help reduce the strain on workers and their bosses.

Caroline Frank said employees should feel like they're able to speak to their bosses

Carolyn Frank, development manager for North Yorkshire at the Federation of Small Businesses said sickness in the workplace was “everyone’s responsibility”.

“For small businesses where you have a very small team, anyone being absent can have a big impact in the workplace.

“What we’re really keen to see is companies large and small putting plans in place so that people can access occupational health and feel as though they can speak to their employer and look at a flexible way to come back, whether that’s part time or whatever works for them.”

“The key is to get that right so that employees are supported to come back to work as quickly as they’re able to.”

Health-related lost productivity is estimated to cost the UK economy an estimated £81bn, with more than 131 million working days lost to sickness every year.

There is a lot of good work on mental health in the region, Ms Frank said - she praised North Yorkshire County Council’s wellbeing award for employers as an example.

A government spokesman said: “We are determined to improve mental health support and we are transforming services through the NHS Long Term Plan - backed by an extra £2.3bn a year - to give 380,000 more adults and 345,000 children and young people access to specialist services by 2023/24.”

Last month, the Government launched a Health is Everyone’s Business consultation which aims to find ways to help government and employers tackle sickness.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it is also reforming Statutory Sick Pay so that it is more flexible, and is extended to those on the lowest incomes.

The consultation closes on 7 October.