Monday, October 12, 2020

Transport Sector Adversely Affected by Mental Health Issues but All Employers Need to Do More

Figures Taken Before Major Effect of Covid-19 Set In Show Reluctance to Discuss Matters
Shipping News Feature

UK – A new white paper from not-for-profit, private healthcare group Benenden Health has revealed the transport and travel sector has been adversely affected by mental health issues of late causing more than a third of staff to take time off in the course of the previous year.

The fact the survey, carried out on 1,008 UK working employees (non-furloughed) and 1,003 UK business owners and directors by Censuswide in May-June 2020, was taken prior to the most serious effects of the Covid-19 virus had set in, is particularly troubling.

With over 800,000 members Benenden Health was founded in 1905 with the purpose of people joining together to help pay for medical care. Its new survey shows 38% of employees in the transport and travel sectors took time off work due to poor mental health in 2019 with workers absent for between two and five days on average.

The research also revealed nearly half (46%) of workers who took time off due to poor mental wellbeing said they were honest with their employer about the reason for their absence, although more than a quarter (29%) said they have instead cited a physical issue and the same amount have taken annual leave to avoid any questions or embarrassment.

The views of employers in the transport and travel sectors were also sought, and they agreed there is a stigma around discussing mental wellbeing at work, with more than three quarters (76%) acknowledging this. Some 29% of employers said they don’t know how to identify if an employee is struggling with their mental wellbeing, although only 59% said they would be comfortable talking to employees about their mental health.

This, compared to employers in the education industry (63%) and construction and engineering (77%) is a much lower base, showing work is still to be done to encourage conversations between employers and employees in the sector surrounding mental health.

The main reasons for employees’ reticence to discuss their mental wellbeing in the workplace included thinking people won’t believe they can do their job effectively (19%), worrying people will treat them differently (25%), being concerned that people will talk about them (19%) and worrying that it will impact on their career progression (25%). Bob Andrews, CEO at Benenden Health, said:

“It comes as no great surprise to see that poor mental wellbeing is having such a significant impact on employees and businesses in the transport and travel sectors across the UK, even before the pandemic hit, and something which has likely been exacerbated by the impact of being on the front line during the crisis or struggling with the prospect of unemployment for many in the sector.

“There continues to be a stigma around discussing our mental wellbeing and this is often more prevalent in the workplace than anywhere else. Unfortunately, businesses are too often unable to identify wellbeing issues, employees still feel like they can’t discuss them and there remains a lack of tangible support, all of which contribute to lost time and productivity for businesses as well as unaddressed poor employee wellbeing.

“It isn’t just the transport and travel sectors which are struggling with this issue, and the only way to tackle this is for businesses to prove to their employees that they genuinely care about their wellbeing, foster a culture of openness and provide the necessary internal and external support. By doing this, employers will be rewarded with fewer lost hours, a happier and more productive workforce and a workplace that is attractive to both current and prospective employees.”