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Mental health absence guide for small to medium-sized businesses launches online

A new online guide which allows employers and staff to talk about mental health has been made available to businesses across the UK.

The Return to Work toolkit gives bosses and their employees information, downloadable material and advice on how best to approach absences and returns due to stress, anxiety or depression.The website features templates for absence letters, facts about mental health, checklists for each stage of sick leave and a comprehensive guide for return to work, including exercises such as identifying work priorities.

NCSEM-EM and Loughborough University’s Dr Fehmidah Munir, who helped develop the toolkit, said: “Mental health affects one in six people in the workplace, so the likelihood is, that if you work in a large office, a number of your colleagues have been through or are going through mental ill-health.

“There are currently no resources for employers and employees to help with taking the initial first steps to discussing mental health, absences or returning back after leave.

“Our toolkit is aimed predominantly at small and medium-sized businesses, which often don’t have the resources in place to deal with staff mental health.

“The toolkit is free and has been created in a such a way that it allows staff and their employers to communicate about successfully progressing back to work after a period of absence.”

The £150,000 project is a collaboration between Loughborough, Kingston University London and Affinity Health at Work, which specialises in improving workplace health, wellbeing, engagement and leadership.

All of the information has been gathered from evidenced-based research and from organisations such as the charity Mind, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and ACAS, which helps businesses prevent or resolve workplace problems.

The website guides employers and employees through six steps starting with the initial absence through to a healthy return and work environment.

  1. Dealing with the initial absence
  2. Developing knowledge and skills
  3. Maintaining communication
  4. Preparing for return to work
  5. Return to work conversation
  6. Keeping healthy and productive at work

Dr Jo Yarker, the project lead from Kingston, said: “We are looking for employees, employers and small businesses to trial the toolkit so if you are interested in taking part, please get in touch with Rebecca on and she will provide further information with regards to the next steps.”

Find out more on the Return to Work website.