PATH Yorkshire have invited me to speak at a workshop on 19th July at Shine in Leeds, about the change management processes that will help an organisation introduce a more proactive approach to the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.
The invitation arrives in the wake of a visit to Leeds by HRH Prince Harry during which he spoke about the need for everyone to be more open about mental health issues and accepting that everyone is has an equal potential of having a mental health challenge.
At the same time, I have spoken to employers who whilst keen to talk positively in support of the Prince’s message are reluctant to acknowledge that their employees are at risk or that their way of working may put people at risk. I get an overwhelming feeling that a lot of employers are in denial. So, being asked to continue the conversation about mental health is quite a privilege.
I will be looking at how an individual within an organisation, regardless of whether they are a HR professional or not can build a case for introducing a proactive approach to employee physical and mental health and wellbeing.
We will look at the processes of building the business case and identifying how to position that proposition so that it is readily accepted by a senior management team and implemented.
This event comes at a time when the reluctance of employers to be involved in the management of employee health is having an impact on productivity and the number of employees with health issues is increasing. A recent survey of 2,000 UK workers conducted by PwC found that just over a third (34%) were struggling with a mental health issue, most commonly anxiety, depression and stress. Mental Health charity, Mind, says that a quarter (26 per cent) of staff with mental health issues thought work was the main cause.
Part of the problem is as the Heads Together campaign launched by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge says people are not talking about mental health. There is a way to go before people can feel comfortable about it.
Research published by insurer Legal & General shows that fewer than one in 10 employees would feel comfortable discussing mental health problems with their manager. They just do not have the confidence in their managers, but 78 per cent of those managers think their staff would be happy to have a conversation with them about their mental health. So, it is easy for managers to believe that if the employee is not starting that conversation, perhaps there isn’t a problem?
If the conversation isn’t happening, and there is no published policy about health and wellbeing, and no health-related benefits, more than half (54 per cent) of the employees surveyed by PwC said that their employer did not offer any health perks, such as subsidised gym membership, health screenings or counselling, then neither the manager or the employee knows what the other is thinking. You end up with a situation in which research published by insurer Aviva found that as many as 43% of employees feel that they employers value productivity more highly than the health of their employees.
It all starts to feel somewhat dark satanic mills.
But, if productivity is what concerns you, the PwC research identified that 39% of employees take time off or cut back on the work that they were doing as a result of their health, and 83% described their levels of productivity being strongly linked to their well-being. This results in an absence figure of 27 days per year per employee according to the Financial Times. Add that to an employee’s holiday entitlement and you could be looking at an average employee only being at work for just over 9 months of the year.
Add this to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics which show that overall UK productivity is falling, as measured by output per hour, is estimated to have fallen by 0.5% from Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2016 to Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017; over a longer time-period, labour productivity growth has been lower on average than prior to the economic downturn.
All the evidence over a long period of time identifies that healthier, happier employees are better performers, they stay, they have a long-term impact on cost reduction and have fewer accidents.
So why aren’t businesses more interested in maintaining employee health?
In part, the perception of employees that productivity is more important has an element of truth.
As employers, we do not understand enough about what makes one employee more productive than another or what make one employee more susceptible to illness than their colleagues. What we do know is that successful businesses take a proactive approach to managing both productivity and employee health and absence.
The first step is to make sure that your senior managers are on-board with the approach and that is what we will explore at the event on 19th July.
No the Dragons’ Den that I entered was completely different, and I was a dragon.
The HEART partnership was established to help build equality of access to higher education for all those pupils who are capable of succeeding at that level and would benefit from the experience. The aim is to encourage under represented groups to access higher education. These groups include people who may have
The Dragons’ Den forms part of a residential for young people that was designed to increase their confidence and self-esteem, as well as bringing out the students’ skills and qualities so that they can build a better understanding of the world of work and business.
The students were introduced to the world of commerce with an upcycling project in which they were challenged to create something useful from obsolete computer equipment. The project required the students to learn and understand and then put into practice the skills required to solve problems, manage a project, work as a team, communicate effectively and present their ideas.
I was one of the local business people who was asked to assessed the upcycled products that the young people had created. Along the way I had to explain to one of the project teams what a floppy disk is. Apparently it is not something that the young people of today are familiar with.
Without good role models and encouragement there is a risk that the young people of the United Kingdom will not build successful working lives. The Confederation of British Business (CBI) agrees with Business in the Community (BITC) that support from businesses can help schools to raise pupil aspirations further, acheive more and helps young people understand and prepare for the world outside the school gates. Schools have also acknowledged that good employer – education engagement as a means of inspiring improved attainment levels and raising pupil aspirations.
The statistics are quite sobering
I am looing forward to the Annual Meeting of the CIPD North Yorkshire branch at which I will end six years as volunteer branch chair. Over the last six years I have met an increasing number of HR professionals who are supporting employees who are dealing with mental health issues. It has been good to see the change in attitude towards an area of health that affects a quarter of the UK population, although much more needs to be done before we understand mental health issues as well as we understand physical health. It was for this reason that I challenged Kerry Smith the volunteer leader of the branch events team to create an event, my last as branch chair that would contribute to increasing this understanding.
As the first bookings for the Annual Meeting are arriving the World Health Organisation has published research that identifies the benefits of investing in mental health services for workers has on productivity and profitability.
This year’s Annual Meeting falls in Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, and our guest speaker will be Jon Bartlett, who lives and works with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.
In the United Kingdom some 70 million working days are lost each year to mental health related absence. Globally the cost of depression and anxiety disorders costs US$1 trillion each year.
Part of the reason why poor mental health is such a problem is that it is an area of health that is so often misunderstood. People do not know how to recognise the early signs of mental health issues or have the confidence to seek help.
It is not so long ago that a similar issue existed with male specific cancers like prostrate and testicular cancer. Early diagnosis and subsequent successful treatment is increasing are as a result of campaigns like Movember and the check-em out campaign which featured pop star Robbie Williams. Learning lessons from these campaigns will help to break down the stigma associated with mental health and get people to discuss it. Just as with many physical illnesses early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down or stop a mental health problem and lead to faster recovery.
At the Annual Meeting we will be learning from personal and organisational experience how to spot the common signs and symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and how to help each other – and yourselves.
As HR professionals we have an important role to play in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and reducing the discrimination the sufferers encounter. Regardless of the issue that HR professionals have to deal with their role is more successful when they can demonstrate a clear business benefit from the activities involved in solving the issue. Now the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank (WB) have released research which demonstrates that every US$ 1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$ 4 in better health and ability to work.
The WHO-led study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, provides a global estimate, for the first time, of both the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness. The study, provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said, “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too.”
Dr Chan called for new ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Depression and anxiety are increasing.
Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden. Humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. WHO estimates that, during periods of heighten activity, like meeting deadlines, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.
Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs
The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes for the fifteen years from 2016-2030.
The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and anti-depressant medication, amounted to US$ 147 billion. Yet the returns far outweigh the costs. A five percent improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US$ 399 billion, and improved health adds another US$ 310 billion in returns.
However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed. According to WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.
Figures from the Nuffield Trust indicate that in England the NHS spend around £12billion a year on mental health, including dementia. It is the biggest area of NHS spending, around double the amount spent on cancers and tumours.
Whilst appearing happy is no guarantee that someone does not have a mental health issue the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have identified what the happiest person in the UK might look like.
“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “This is not just a public health issue—it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”
The World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund want to see mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda with increases in funding for mental health.
Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health, said, “Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority—and a priority in every country. We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and businesses.”
Use this link to book your place at this event.
Speaking from the Northern HR Conference 2012 for the Voluntary and Community Sector and Not for Profit Organisations Mr Millward who had led a seminar earlier in the day on absence management explained that the sector is rapidly growing and employing an increasingly large number of people.
To be a voluntary sector organisation it just needs to run by a board of trustees instead of a board of directors.
Organisations attending the conference which was organised by the North Yorkshire Forum for Voluntary Organisations reflected said Mr Millward the wide range of organisations in the sector. It is a mistake to assume that all organisations in the sector are small; there are many substantial businesses, with multi-million pound turnover.
Regardless of their size these organisations face the same issues as a private or public sector organisation when they start to employ people.
In many voluntary sector organisations the terms and conditions of employment including rates of pay and benefits are similar to those in the public sector. So working in the voluntary sector does not mean that you have to be a full time volunteer or live on meagre wages.
This means that the sector is increasingly attractive to top performers and people with experience of working in the voluntary sector are increasingly attractive as candidates to employers in other sectors. This said Mr Millward is because of the restricted budgets that the voluntary sector operates, people have to stretch every pound so to speak and the connections that people in the sector make across the public and private sector.
But it is important to remember, if you are running a voluntary sector organisation, that as soon as you start employing people you must comply with employment legislation including health and safety.
If you get it wrong as a manager in a voluntary sector organisation you will be as liable to pay the employee compensation as a private sector employer. The difference is that the money will come from grant funds or donations and that may put the existence of your organisation and the services it provides in jeopardy.
The conversation was prompted by news that the Government is investigating the way in which people who work for the government in senior roles have set up companies that submit invoices to the Government for their services, a strategy that allows them to avoid paying what can be thousands of pounds in income tax and national insurance.
Mr Millward explained the simplest way to avoid paying the 50% higher rate of income tax is not to be an employee with a high salary.
But if you want the high income without the high tax rate you can, quite legally, provide exactly the same service to the company, but instead of receiving a pay check at the end of each month you submit an invoice in the name of another company, a company that you own and when that invoice is paid instead of you paying 50% income tax on the amount you pay corporation tax at the much lower rate of 21%.
Your National Insurance payments could also be much lower. But you have to remember that as a contractor you miss out on all the benefits and protections of being an employee including pensions. Although in some circumstances a company might have to auto enrol a contractor into a pension scheme.
Several celebrities and senior government ‘employees’ including the head of the Student Loan Company have been revealed to be operating these arrangements.
One major BBC celebrity is reported to have been paid £22,607 in to her company. The income tax bill on this amount would be about £11,303, the corporation tax bill is just £4,380, less than half. The celebrity is also able to describe several that normal everyday expenses are business expenses and claim them against tax.
Mr Millward stressed that there is nothing illegal about this, and that as the number of self employed professionals increases it is likely that more people will manage their income through a limited company. You don’t need to be a millionaire or a celebrity to do so. You just need to be operating a business, with valid business expenses.
So what is the difference between an employee and a valid contractor asked Ms Fiorentini.
Well, said Mr Millward, in reality not everyone who works is an employee. Many people like me who work as business consultants or independent contractors establish companies so that we can have more control over the type of work we do, and how and when we do it.
People who are employees don’t normally have the same level of control or independence. However as an employee they do benefit from numerous legal protections that self employed contractors do not enjoy. You can not for example as a contractor claim unfair dismissal because that concept is part of employment law and a contractor relationship is governed by contract law.
There are three factors which identify someone as an employee
We are not talking about a senior manager telling a junior manager what needs to be done and then that junior manager delegating tasks to a team. That is an employment situation. The contractor has the freedom after a contract has been won to decide to subcontract the work to another person, who the customer or client may not be aware of.
There are other factors that help to define a person as an employee these include
Other factors which indicate that the person is an independent contractor include if the person
Working arrangements said Mr Millward need to be defined at the start of the relationship and described in writing to avoid the risk of future confusion.
However although two parties can agree to a contract it must be a legal contract and the final decision on whether someone is an employee or a contractor rests with the Courts.
Mr Millward explained that an increasing number of people are looking at self employment as a viable alternative to employment, and companies are welcoming them with open arms. Independent contractors offer a company much more flexibility and potentially a higher level of skills and knowledge than an employee, and it is talent that they can turn on and off as and when they need it.
As Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) North Yorkshire Branch I lead the branch with the largest number of independent consultants in the country. Every six weeks the Branch hosts an event for self employed professionals, of all kinds at St Aiden’s School in Harrogate.
The next event is on 27th February. Full details are available at the branch website.
At the end of their discussion Mr Millward reminded Ms Fiorentini that they next time the two of them would speak on 5th March 2012 he would be talking to her from the Northern HR Conference for the Voluntary Sector, which is being held at the Royal York Hotel, York and where he would be presenting a seminar on absence management.