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Wellbeing & Benefits

Mental health-related absence cost UK businesses £14 billion last year, according to research by Westfield Health, with Covid-19 (Coronavirus) largely to blame. Its Coping with Covid report found mental health-related absenteeism costs rose by £1.3 billion during 2020, compared to 2019, as working from home, furlough and pay cuts brought radical changes for millions of UK employees.

The report, which surveyed more than 1,600 staff and employers, also found a 10% increase in absences due to mental health as people struggled to adapt to new ways of working.

A more positive finding was the fact UK businesses said they had become more committed to investing in the wellbeing of their teams. Around 81% of businesses reported a renewed focus on the mental and physical health of employees.

On average, employees took 3.19 days off for mental health-related issues in 2020, up from 2.90 days in 2019, the research showed. The report also found that 76% of respondents said their productivity has stagnated or fallen since last year.

Dave Capper (pictured), CEO at Westfield Health, said: “The findings from our research paint a worrying picture for workplace productivity, with the economic impact of mental health clearly deepening.

“However, the way businesses have and are responding to this challenge gives us hope, as when we come out the other side of this pandemic, there will be a long-term commitment to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.”

The research found that 22% employees are concerned about losing their job, 26% are becoming increasingly anxious about work, while 12% believe they are not being supported by their employer.

Capper added: “The £14 billion cost uncovered in this research shows that decreasing mental health is both a public health and an economic issue.”

“At a time when many [employers] are under extreme financial pressures investing to help employee cope can seem expensive, the investment, both in cost and time, to ensure that employees are coping may seem expensive, but the cost of ignoring the problem is even greater.”

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