Christine Husbands, managing director of RedArc’s response to the workplace health advice and disability support road map

“We welcome the announcement today of the government strategy ‘Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability’. Hot on the heels of the Stevenson/Farmer Thriving at Work report, it seems that the government is at last tackling the health and disability issues faced in the workplace. We completely concur with the view that good work is good for wellbeing.

“By far, one of the biggest single health conditions causing headaches for employers is mental health. This is often unseen, well-hidden, misunderstood and difficult to recognise. It actually includes a vast range of different illnesses, symptoms, disabilities and severities. Illness can be caused by both personal and work factors and is often very complex. Employers often feel they are treading a fine line between doing the right thing, keeping the business on track and complying with legislation such as disability discrimination.

“The Stevenson/Farmer report makes some excellent recommendations to address the issues faced by employers, which can only be for the good, and if implemented, should go a long way to reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace, and nip problems in the bud.

“However, there is currently massive strain on NHS mental health treatment resources, which must be addressed, quite possibly by the inclusion of more accessible support services from the private sector.

“Employers should consider the provision of employee-focused mental health support services and make sure they are easily accessible to staff. Nowadays apps and online solutions are the norm and employees feel much more comfortable initiating help in this way, rather than making a phone call.

“Whilst mental health is a major problem, we should not overlook the problems associated with long-term physical conditions and disabilities. Some of these will also be mental health issues, others will be more physical issues such as mobility and practical capabilities.

“An holistic approach is required for the successful management of all disabilities, be they physical or mental or a combination of the two. Many people recovering from physical health conditions, may be unable to return to work due to the mental health aspects, so until these are addressed, the employee will continue be absent, and in time, become disengaged and less likely to return to the workplace.

“The recent drive towards wellbeing initiatives in the workplace is very welcome. When this is coupled with early recognition of potential illness with appropriate services in place, then the workplace can be a better more inclusive environment. This is better for business and better for employees.”