One of the co-authors of the research, which was carried out by Cork-based institutions, said that employers may not realise the business case for investing in mental health and wellbeing.
Employee absenteeism is on the rise in Ireland as many Irish workplaces are failing to adequately respond to employees’ mental health needs.
That’s according to new research that is being released today (29 March) by University College Cork (UCC) and Munster Technological University (MTU) academics. It found that one in five Irish employers have a budget for mental health.
The research looked at attitudes to mental health and mental health policies in the workplace in Ireland. More than 1,500 businesses were involved in the survey which took place between September and December 2022.
The Irish study was part of a wider international project that compared the prevalence of mental ill health and absenteeism in Irish and English workplaces, as well as differences in how employers are responding to these challenges.
On average, it found that Irish workplaces were faring worse than their English counterparts when it came to responding to employees’ mental health needs.
The Irish findings revealed that while 76pc of the employers surveyed said they see employee mental health and wellbeing as their responsibility, a whopping 80pc are not investing in workplace mental health.
Mental health issues are estimated to cost the Irish economy tens of billions each year. Almost two thirds (64pc) of employers say that absenteeism – both physical and mental-health related – adversely impacts business performance.
The apparent lack of consideration of mental health-related issues shown by employers here could be harming businesses as well as the people who work for them, the report’s authors believe.
“It may be that the business case for investing in mental health and wellbeing is unclear to Irish businesses,” said Niamh Lenihan, of MTU.
She described the report as a “first step to understanding workplace mental health and wellness promotion by Irish employers”.
Lenihan’s co-author from UCC, Dr Jane Bourke, pointed to the statistic that only one in five companies have a dedicated budget for mental health.
“Mental health-related sickness absence is a growing challenge for Irish employers. The business costs of poor employee mental health and wellbeing can be substantial. However, employers are more likely to implement mental health and wellbeing initiatives that do not involve a financial outlay,” she said.
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