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Poor mental health could cost automotive sector £1.2bn a year

Image from the Ben charity's 'Mental health in the automotive industry: moving up a gear' whitepaper

BEN is urging employers in the automotive sector to focus more resource to ensure the wellbeing of staff after finding that poor mental health could cost £1.2 billion-a-year.

The 'Mental health in the automotive industry: moving up a gear' whitepaper, which has been published by the automotive charity this week found that mental health is still one of the biggest issues affecting the industry’s workforce and could cost employers as much as £1.2bn a year collectively.

Coinciding with World Mental Health Day, the report aims to encourage industry employers to raise awareness of the stigma still attached to mental health issues and build a clear case for businesses to take action in support of their employees.

As part of this, Ben wants to work in partnership with automotive industry employers, through its Ben4Business programme, to make a positive difference to the mental health of those who work in the automotive industry.

Ben’s health and wellbeing director, Rachel Clift, said: “To coincide with World Mental Health Day, we wanted to shine a spotlight on mental health in the workplace.

“Through starting and continuing the conversation, we can not only make a positive difference to peoples’ lives but more importantly save lives too.

“Our free, confidential support is readily available to anyone who works (or has worked) in the industry - from the assembly line to the boardroom.”

Ben's whitepaper survey found that 24% of employee who encounter an issue with their mental health would prefer to approach a line manager than a colleague (13%) or HR (12%).

The report said that this "highlights the real need for line managers to be trained in how to support their team members, not only when someone discloses an issue with their mental health, but also to recognise the signs". 

Clift said: “I urge employers to read Mental health in the automotive industry: moving up a gear as it offers great insights into the mental health of the automotive industry.

“It’s insightful but it’s also a great resource to help employers support their workforce and promote positive mental health in their workplace.”

Ben’s new whitepaper draws on findings from many sources, including Ben’s own survey that asked hundreds of employees from the industry, including chief executives and HR professionals, to identify key health and wellbeing issues affecting them.

In 2018, 52% of requests for help from Ben’s helpline related to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, a 23% increase on the previous year. The evidence in the report paints a picture of an industry that is still struggling with mental health issues.

The £1.2bn annual cost to the automotive sector quoted in the whitepaper darws on a study caried out by Deloitte, which estimated that the costs of mental health related absence in the UK workplace is £7.9bn.

Deloitte estimated that poor mental health costs UK employers between £33bn and £42bn every year. The cost to the country – including lost output and NHS bills – is somewhere between £74bn and £99bn.

Ben said: "If you run a garage with 10 employees, poor mental health could be costing you around £10,000 to £15,000 a year. And if you are a business with over 13,000 UK employees, the bill could be nearer £15m to £20m." 

Talking about Ben’s mental health training, Anna Hatton, wellbeing manager at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), said: “We’ve been working closely with Ben to provide mental health awareness training for all of our employees with line management responsibilities.

“We felt it was important to train our line managers so they could fully develop their skills in supporting colleagues with their mental health. So far, Ben has trained over 800 of our managers, and this number is growing all the time.

“The training has gone down extremely well with our managers and they have given us fantastic feedback, saying they have found it incredibly useful. Some have even said it’s the best course they have ever been on! They tell us that the course has really helped build their confidence in approaching and supporting employees they are concerned about.”

To download the 'Mental health in the automotive industry: moving up a gear' whitepaper click here.

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