With stress, depression and anxiety now the leading cause of workplace absences in the UK, compliance expert Bureau Veritas is calling on organisations to tackle the problem head-on by reviewing how they recognise, assess and manage work-related mental illness.
It comes as annual figures released by the Health and Safety Executive show that in 2017/18, a total of 15.4m working days were lost as a result of work-related stress, anxiety or depression, up from 12.5m last year. Overall, this now equates to 57% of the 26.8m work days lost to ill health in the UK during the same period.
In light of this, Bureau Veritas has revealed that companies that are certified to 18001 will benefit from transitioning to ISO 45001, due to come into force March 2021, as for the first time, the new international standard for occupational health and safety requires employers to put measures in place to improve employee mental health and well-being.
Carol Robinson, health, safety and environment manager at Bureau Veritas, said: “The HSE statistics show that a record number of Britons now suffer from work-related stress, depression and anxiety, and as the leading cause of work place absences in the UK, employee work-related mental ill-health is said to cost UK employers up to £42bn a year.
“As such, it’s never been a more appropriate time for employers to take action and review how they recognise, assess and manage work-related mental ill-health. This will not only help to understand the root causes of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace but will no doubt go a long way in reducing absenteeism.
“For businesses unsure of where to begin, following the requirements of ISO 45001 from Occupational Health and Safety (OHSAS 18001) will help to manage workplace mental health. The new international standard goes much further than just preventing workplace injuries and is the first-of-its-kind to put the onus on employers to improve employee health and well-being.”
Overall, the HSE figures show that the rate of workplace injuries in the UK is in general decline and coincides with findings by Bureau Veritas that it has seen a 63% reduction in workplace accidents across the organisation.
Robinson added: “This improvement is a result of organisations in recent years making a concerted effort, in terms of their values, attitudes and practices, to improve workplace safety. There’s always more that can be done to prevent employees being injured at work and our advice to businesses is to review their culture and processes on a regular basis and find ways to continually monitor and improve their overall health and safety strategy.”