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Time to change regarding mental well-being within businesses

According to a survey run by engineering services trade bodies ECA and BESA, nine out of 10 business owners across construction suffer a range of mental health issues due to payment and other business pressures. This also follows the release of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual figures for Great Britain, with the managing director of Mates in Mind urging employers to address mental health.

The new ECA/BESA survey, conducted in association with 25 other construction trade bodies, found that business owners have an array of significant mental health problems due to the pressures of late or unfair payment. These include stress (80 per cent), depression (36 per cent), extreme anger (38 per cent), anxiety and/or panic attacks (40 per cent), insomnia (36 per cent) and suicidal feelings (10 per cent).

This sits alongside the reports from the HSE that the number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or longstanding) in 2018/19 has remained at 600,000 cases – the same as reported for 2017/18.

Unfair payment practices also have a significant impact on employees right across a business. Of all the respondents to the ECA/BESA survey, four said they had attempted suicide as a result, while 80 per cent reported a mental health issue. Over four in 10 of all respondents said that payment issues had strained their relationship with their partner, with five per cent reporting it caused it to breakdown entirely.

Furthermore, the HSE has stated that in 2018/19 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44 per cent of all work-related ill health cases and 54 per cent of all working days lost due to ill health. The report highlights that the total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2018/19 was 12.8 million days, equating to an average of 21.2 days lost per case.

ECA director of CSR, Paul Reeve, commented: “Everybody expects business to deal with everyday pressures, but stress and other mental health impacts come from sustained and excessive pressure. It’s absolutely clear from these findings that poor payment is a serious cause of mental health issues across the industry and that the problem, far from being isolated to certain individuals, is commonplace among top management.

“These problems quickly knock on to employees and families alike. Findings such as these mean that clients and other buyers need to greatly improve their approach to supply chain payment and it’s a sad reflection on the industry that it will probably take legislation to achieve it.”

ECA/BESA survey supporters cover a range of construction activity, including electrical, plumbing, building, scaffolding, roofing, civil engineering, fire safety, painting and decorating, and interiors. The survey supporters are all part of a wider industry coalition pressing the government to reform the practice of cash retentions in in construction.

James Rudoni, managing director of Mates in Mind, said in relation to the HSE report: “In addition to highlighting the worrying business cost that poor mental health is having across UK industries, we must acknowledge that the human cost of these trends cannot be ignored either. The numbers being presented in HSE’s report are not simply cases, but people, therefore we urge employers to invest in the health of their organisations, by prioritising the mental health of their most vulnerable and most valuable asset - their people.”

“With the HSE’s report highlighting the challenges which work-related ill-health poses and the specific areas in which employers and organisations can work to be better and make a change, the report comes as an important warning that more organisations need to take action.”

With both the engineering services trade bodies, ECA and BESA, and the HSE clearly advocating for change regarding mental well-being within business it is clear that action needs to be taken. Whilst the HVACR industry is focussed on how they can make changes to meet F-gas regulations and the governments carbon neutral goals for 2050, it is important to remember to focus on mental well-being as well as environmental well-being.

8 November 2019

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