Why are many employers not offering mental health days?

Mental health strategies needed 'to foster an environment where people feel supported, valued, and listened,' says expert

Why are many employers not offering mental health days?

SMEs in Australia and New Zealand are less likely to provide mental health days to employees compared to other countries, finds a study.

While 31% of respondents in Australia and 28% in New Zealand stated that there were increases in sick leaves due to mental health concerns, 77% and 60% of respondents in Australia and New Zealand, respectively, do not provide mental health days to employees -- and are not planning on doing so any time soon, according to Peninsula Employsure.

Due to the commonality of employees using their sick leaves when dealing with their mental issues, SMEs feel there is less of a need to have dedicated mental health days, said Peninsula Employsure CEO David Price pointed.

This was more evident if there are fewer employees in the workplace who struggles with mental health issues.

“Many small businesses don’t have the resources, in terms of both capital and manpower, to offer mental health days on top of sick and annual leave entitlements. Business operating costs and the risks of failure are on an upward trajectory in 2024 for small businesses. Therefore, the focus for many business owners is on survival, maintaining viability and keeping expenses down,” said Price.

Support employee mental health

However, the study found that there were other ways employers were dealing with mental health concerns in their workplaces with some including:

  • time off during work hours to consult with counsellors
  • short mental health breaks throughout the workday
  • regular and open discussions among teams to better support each other
  • mental health first aiders.

While a sizeable portion of respondents (61% in Australia and 62% in New Zealand) said that staff are speaking more openly about mental health concerns in the workplace, only half (55% in Australia and 50% in New Zealand) are somewhat confident their employees would disclose a mental health issue to them or their line manager, found Peninsula.

“The data demonstrates the importance of organisations, regardless of size, having effective mental health strategies in place to foster an environment where people feel supported, valued, and listened to,” said Price.

Over half of respondents (52% in Australia and 56% in New Zealand) have observed a greater emphasis on employees prioritising work-life balance.

“Employees who have a healthy work-life balance are less stressed, more productive, and more likely to stay in their role and thrive. Employers that don’t protect this balance will see higher turnover and adverse business outcomes as a result,” he added.

The survey was conducted by Peninsula Group across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, and Canada.

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