Is stigma preventing your employees from talking about mental health?

UK workers took 15.8 million mental health sick days last year, but the true number could be even higher…

There are concerns that stigma-related fears are preventing many employees from disclosing anxiety, depression and stress to account for their absence, as the reported figure only represents 11 percent of the 137 million sickness days taken in 2017.

“There have been some outstanding national campaigns to remove the stigma around mental health and to encourage people – especially men – to speak up about their wellbeing, but this has not yet been fully echoed in the workplace,” said Ellen Parkin MCIPD, Managing Director of Spire HR.

“Culturally, almost all workers will feel comfortable calling in sick with a common cold or stomach bug, but many people – unfortunately – feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell their boss they are experiencing low mood or panic attacks.

‘World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity for SMEs to review what skills gaps exist within their organisation around managing mental health in the workplace.”

Positive mental health at work for employers, employees and line managers

A non-departmental public body of the UK Government, ACAS’ purpose is to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practice.

In addition to releasing guidance on both managing staff with mental ill-health and having challenging conversations, ACAS have developed a new framework for positive mental health at work for employers, employees and line managers.

“At Spire HR, we always advocate taking positive action today to promote employee wellbeing and business resilience tomorrow, so ACAS’ framework is a great place to start,” added Ellen.

“Working with an outsourced HR partner will ensure you are fully supported to review your existing processes and to roll out improvements in line with national guidelines. This includes undergoing training to look out for the signs and symptoms of mental health issues; starting a compassionate conversation; signposting people to occupational health; making any necessary workplace adjustments; and preparing for a phased return to work.”

Another initiative around mental health is the ‘where’s your head at’ campaign by MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) to introduce mental health first aiders into the workplace. 200,000 signatures were delivered to Downing Street this week to encourage changes to the Health & Safety Regulations around first aid to include mental health as well as physical health.

World Mental Health Day 2018

Set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Mental Health Day is held every year on 10 October. This year’s theme is ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.

WHO have stated that: ‘Much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age to help prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults, and to manage and recover from mental illness. Prevention begins with being aware of and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness’.


To discuss Spire HR’s Employment Law support offering, telephone 01925 626253 or email