On World Suicide Prevention Day we have been reflecting on the increase in enquiries relating to employees who are being signed off sick with mental health issues since the start of lockdown.

It’s vital that employers do everything they can to prevent mental health problems and minimise stress within the workplace:

1. Conduct a stress audit to discover the potential risk areas within your business and if there are any staff who may be at more risk than others of stress from work or other mental health issues.
A workplace stress audit covers the entire workforce and should include the following considerations:

  • Employee absence levels
  • Reasons for absence
  • Employee turnover rates
  • Reasons why employees leave
  • Any employees who are known to be vulnerable to stress
  • Any known conflicts between staff
  • Are employees aware of what to do if they feel under pressure?

The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland have created an indicator tool to help with this http://www.hseni.gov.uk/publications/hseni-indicator-tool-questionnaire

2. Introduce a stress and mental wellbeing policy so that staff know what support to expect and who to go to if they need support.

3. Consider providing a 24/7 confidential helpline to employees via an Employee Assistance Programme.  Inspire based in Belfast and Dundalk deliver such a service.

https://www.inspirewellbeing.org/our-services/professional-services/inspire-workplaces

4. Return to work interviews are a key tool to assist companies to understand the reasons for any sickness absence offering the opportunity for a one-to-one conversation with the employee about any issues they may be experiencing at work that could impact on their attendance and their mental health and stress levels.