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Employers urged to offer flexible working to support mental health needs

Thousands of individuals with mental health needs could be offered more flexible working under a new initiative launched by Health Minister Lord Howe.

The approach, which has been developed as part of a new health and work pledge, is set out in a simple guide that includes suggestions such as:

  • taking a flexible approach to start/finish times and shift patterns;
  • allowing paid or unpaid leave for medical appointments;
  • offering a phased return to work;
  • providing a quiet space for breaks; and
  • offering job sharing.

Chair of the Responsibility Deal health at work network, Dame Carol Black said:

“At any time, one in six adults will be experiencing a mental health condition. Most of these people are of working age and are in employment. Mental health conditions cost UK businesses £8.4 billion in sickness absence and a further £15.1 billion in lost productivity.

“For business, economic and moral reasons, it is therefore important that employers play their part in supporting people with such conditions to retain their jobs, and when they are absent in enabling them to return to work as soon as they can.

“Thoughtful, well informed management in respect of employees’ mental and physical health can produce real benefits. Besides reduced sickness absence those benefits include better staff engagement, improved productivity, and reduced staff turnover. Making small workplace adjustments to enable an employee to continue doing their job can be more rewarding and far less expensive than the cost of recruiting and training a new employee.”

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