A number of automotive organisations have joined forces with the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Working Minds campaign to tackle work-related stress in the vehicle repair industry ahead of Christmas.
Ben, the automotive industry charity, has revealed one in two workers in the automotive sector have struggled with their mental health and wellbeing in the past 12 months, while 50% of those involved in the industry are likely to have been dealing with stress, worry or anxiety, low mood or depression. Ben has also seen a 190% rise in people using their benefits counselling service and accessing their financial guidance.
HSE together with Working Minds campaign partners Ben, the National Body Repair Association (NBRA), the commercial Vehicle Body Repair Association (VBRA) and the Independent Garage Association (IGA) are promoting how to prevent work-related stress and support good mental health across the sector.
Difficult times in winter
During the winter months, Ben sees an increase in enquiries and cases as many tend to spend more time indoors, having less interaction with others. This can negatively impact their emotional wellbeing.
The charity says enquiries also come from people who are suffering with financial issues as they see an increase in their bills, which can also lead to poor mental health.
The current cost-of-living crisis will not be helping the situation, with money being stretched amongst household bills, meaning socialising may be limited, which will be more noticeable at this time of the year.
Ellen Plumer, Head of Outreach, Health and Wellbeing at Ben: “Each year thousands of people come to Ben with mental health issues as their primary concern. From results of latest survey of those in the automotive industry, 1 in 2 workers have struggled in the past 12 months. Stress is the most common issue, followed by anxiety and poor sleep.
“Work life balance and high workload are the biggest drivers of workplace stress. If it’s not addressed and goes on for a long period of time, it can turn into an issue. We know there is a strong link between money worries and mental health.
“If you are struggling with money, then you’re likely to be stressed and anxious. It is really important for employers to understand that all areas of a person’s life impacts health and wellbeing. Work is a big part of life so it’s important to make people feel like they matter, are heard and feel supported.”
The latest figures from the HSE show there were an estimated 914,000 cases due to work-related stress, depression, or anxiety for workers in Great Britain in 2021/22. This is an 11% rise from the 822,000 cases in 2020/21.
An estimated 17 million working days were also lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22, which covers more than half of all working days lost due to work-related ill health across the same period. Research from HSE has also found that those who work in motor vehicle repairs, the wholesale and retail trade, had a significantly higher workplace injury rate in 2021/22 compared to most industries.
Supporting businesses through Working Minds
HSE’s Working Minds campaign was launched last year and is aimed specifically at supporting small businesses by providing employers and workers with easy to implement advice and tools to help them recognise and respond to the signs and causes of stress and support good mental health in the workplace. The law requires all employers to protect workers from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
There is an economic benefit to employers supporting staff’s mental health. Figures from a Deloitte report show employers can see a return of £5.30 on average for every £1 invested in mental health, while the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased now by 25% since 2019, costing UK bosses up to £56 billion a year.
“We are calling on employers in the automotive industry to ensure that recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine, as managing workplace safety,” said Liz Goodwill, Head of the Work Related Stress and Mental Health Policy Team at HSE. “Bosses in the automotive industry should hold regular catch-ups with workers and their teams.
Working Minds helps employers to follow five simple steps based on risk assessment. They are:
- Reach out and have conversations
- Recognise the signs and causes of stress
- Respond to any risks you’ve identified
- Reflect on actions you’ve agreed and taken
- Make it Routine. It needs to become the norm to talk about stress and how people are feeling and coping at work
There are three main reasons employers should be looking to prevent stress and support good mental health in business: it is the law, it is good for business and it is the right thing to do. The law requires all employers to protect workers from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have for the person and your business. Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another.
Help and resources
If someone is having problems, encourage them to talk to someone, whether it’s their line manager, trade union representative or GP.
Ben is a charity providing support to anyone who works or has worked in the automotive industry and offers free and confidential online self-help and support services. For more information visit www.ben.org.uk or call the helpline on 08081 311 333.