BLOG: Why the rise in absenteeism due to poor mental health is a positive thing | Wates

With one in four people in the UK diagnosed with a mental health illness and accounting for 43% of employee absenteeism it would appear that there are more cases of mental illness than ever before.

In this blog, John Dunne, Group Safety Health Environment and Quality Director at Wates, outlines why he believes the rise in reported absenteeism is a positive thing.


The rise in reported absenteeism for mental health is something to be welcomed as it tells us that campaigns to destigmatise poor mental health are working. People are now talking about mental health in a positive way and are more comfortable in reporting it as a reason for illness. This we know from our own employee research where previously people were more likely to sign off sick saying they had a bad back or flu, or worse still taken holiday, rather than be seen to have a mental illness.

Now, as I go around the country visiting our sites and offices, I find myself having a lot of conversations about mental health. Employees and operatives want to share their experiences of poor mental health because they now feel they can; and that’s to be celebrated.

The result is that we’re seeing an increase in reported mental illnesses. I see this is a good thing because, as last, we can start to really begin to understand the scale of the issue and develop the right strategies to support people.

Mental Health: it’s our responsibility

At Wates, our long-term wellbeing strategy aims for Zero cases of work-related stress absenteeism and for all employees to feel supported in achieving the right work-life balance for them. We will continue to invest in mental health awareness and engagement and aim to have at least one mental health first aider for every Wates site and office.

With suicide now claiming the life of at least one construction worker every single day, we are working towards a nationwide network of ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trained) members as we acknowledge and develop our role in creating suicide safer communities.

Creating suicide safer communities is about every organisation, every person, who is connected to an individual or who is in regular contact, looking out for them and having the confidence to ask and to signal if something isn’t right.

It is everyone’s responsibility and as an employer where contact is often the greatest, creating the right environment and culture where people can talk, and having the right systems to support one another, is vital.

Every Mind Matters

This year, to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10 October, we’re encouraging all our people to take some time out in support of Public Health England’s ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign, which is  aimed at finding positive ways to look after our mental health as we do our physical health. It highlights that while we can all feel stressed, anxious, low, or have trouble sleeping, there are simple actions we can take to help manage these issues and prevent them from becoming more serious.

Every Mind Matters offers free access to an NHS-approved website and materials  providing  expert advice, practical tips, and experiences from people to help manage mental health issues and those of others. There’s also a really good mental health check quiz!

At some point in our lives we are all likely to experience some form of poor mental health. Looking after ourselves, and looking out for one another, is what being ‘safer together’ is all about.

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