Workplace wellbeing worse in the public sector

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A lack of support results in public sector workers taking more time off for mental health issues

Workplace wellbeing support is worse in the public sector than in the private sector, according to research from mental health charity Mind.

Mind surveyed 12,000 employees across both sectors and found a higher prevalence of mental health issues in the public sector, as well as a lack of support available when people speak up.

Nearly twice the number of public sector respondents said their mental health was poor than their peers in the private sector (15% versus 9%), and felt anxious at work on more occasions over the last month (53% compared to 43%).

Less than half (49%) of people working in the public sector said they felt supported when they had disclosed mental health problems, compared with three in five (61%) in the private sector.

The research suggested the impact of this lack of support could be significant. Public sector survey respondents reported that, on average, they had taken nearly three days off sick in the last year because of their mental health, compared to just under one day on average for workers in the private sector.

Almost half (48%) of public sector workers had taken time off because of their mental health, compared with less than a third (32%) of the private sector workforce surveyed.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said that mental health is one of the biggest domestic issues facing the next government. “More people than ever are speaking out about mental health and demanding change,” he said. “As a nation our expectations for better mental health for all are higher than ever and the next government must rise to this challenge."

Farmer said that employers have a responsibility to put mental health on the agenda. “A vital part of changing the lives of people with mental health problems is to tackle the culture of fear and silence in the workplace that stops them opening up about what they are experiencing.” he said.

“This data shows that the public sector in particular is making progress here. But it’s also vital that when people do speak out they get the right help and support at the right time. It is clear there is still a long way to go in both the public and private sectors to address the gap between people asking for support and actually getting what they need.

“By promoting wellbeing for all staff, tackling the causes of work-related mental health problems, and supporting staff that are experiencing mental health problems, organisations can help keep people at work and create mentally healthy workplaces where employees are supported to perform at their best.”

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