Job insecurity hurting most employees’ mental health

Experts say financial wellbeing plans vital as economic uncertainty ‘likely to continue’ 

Job insecurity negatively impacts the mental health of two-thirds (66 per cent) of UK workers, research published today has found.  

The Business in the Community (BITC) Seizing Momentum: Mental Health at Work 2018 report revealed around one in eight (12 per cent) UK workers believed it was likely they could lose their job in the next 12 months. 

“There is huge financial pressure on employees, with stagnant wages and living costs which continue to rise,” said Louise Aston, BITC wellbeing director. “Employers have an important role in educating employees in financial literacy and signposting them to appropriate sources of professional support.”

Out of 4,000 workers surveyed by YouGov for the report, three-fifths reported losing sleep and experiencing stress, lack of concentration, and fatigue — all symptoms of depression — because of financial concerns. Office for National Statistics (ONS) research has previously found an association between job insecurity and suicide, with young adult males in lower-paid jobs most at risk.

Sally Wilson, senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, called the ONS and BITC research findings alarming. But she added: “It’s important not to over-medicalise the issue. Basics like well-informed line management can make a positive difference to wellbeing.”

Today’s report found more than half (56 per cent) of employees would not talk about money issues at work and only 17 per cent believed their employer supported those going through financial difficulties. 

The UK Employee Benefits Watch also published a report earlier this year which found UK employers were failing to provide the financial support and guidance required in the workplace.

“Trust is key,” said Chris O’Sullivan, head of business development and engagement at the Mental Health Foundation. “Managers must ensure information is provided as soon as possible, that processes are fair, transparent and well explained and that support is available.”

Just 28 per cent of those responding to the BITC research said they did not think financial worries would impede their job performance. A 2017 CIPD survey found a quarter of employees were experiencing financial distress so severe it significantly impacted their productivity. 

“The economic uncertainty experienced by many is likely to continue, so it's important that managers are aware of the impact financial worries can have on people's mental wellbeing,” said Rachel Suff, CIPD health and wellbeing advisor. “Having a management style that is open and compassionate can help people to feel supported at work. “

Two-thirds (68 per cent) of managers interviewed by YouGov for BITC believed there were barriers to providing support for staff mental wellbeing, with training a key concern. Moreover, 67 per cent said they had not had any training on mental health.

Karen Matovu, head of mental health training at Validium, said far too many employers focus on higher-level people initiatives, such as engaging staff with corporate values, when they need to prioritise making employees feel safe and secure. 

She added: “Most employees still feel deeply uncomfortable opening up about emotional or financial issues because most managers don’t know what to do or say when faced with an emotionally distressed employee. By training managers how to listen with empathy and direct people towards appropriate support, such as an employee assistance programme, employees will see others being helped and be more likely to come forward themselves.”