More than half of HR professionals provide staff counselling

More than half (53 per cent) of HR staff have provided counselling to employees in the past two years, a new study has found.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of HR professionals surveyed by MetLife said mental health issues are a major issue in their workplace. In fact, the number of HR professionals who had provided mental health and stress counselling to employees during the past two years was found to be more than double the number who had had to resolve a workplace dispute.

Of more than 200 HR directors, managers and assistants surveyed, 76 per cent said they were surprised by the personal and private information staff tell them, while 22 per cent said they had provided marriage and relationship counselling to employees.

Rachel Suff, employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “It shouldn’t be HR’s job to provide mental health and stress counselling – it really is a specialist area – but it has an important role to play in developing an appropriate supportive framework. A really important part of that is training for line managers to understand what mental health means. If they are not trained it can be really stressful for them to have those conversations and spot issues.”

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, said commonly cited causes of stress – long work hours, excessive workload, tight deadlines, and poor relationships with managers and colleagues – were often preventable.

“It’s not surprising that HR professionals are seeing more colleagues coming through their doors seeking help for mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. A recent survey by Mind found that more than half of workers rated their jobs as fairly or very stressful.

“It is important that HR professionals and line managers work hard to create a culture conducive to promoting wellbeing, as well as tackling the work-related causes of mental health problems and supporting staff experiencing mental health problems. Staff working for employers that take this issue seriously are less likely to become unwell.”

The report coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22 May 2016), and the launch of an interactive toolkit to help employers provide mental health support from Business in the Community (BITC).

BITC is also encouraging UK employees, line managers and senior leaders to complete its online national employee mental wellbeing survey, which aims to gather information about how employers are currently supporting mental health issues. “We want to reach as many employees as possible,” said Louise Aston, BITC wellbeing campaign director. The survey closes on 29 July, with the findings to be published in October.

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