Following the publication of new figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – which reveal that work-related stress, anxiety or depression now account for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in the UK – an agency which places contractors has highlighted how growth of the gig-economy is contributing to the rise.

The Works Recruitment has been championing mental health among the temporary workforce since 2017, following the tragic death of one of its contract workers who took their own life, most recently by campaigning for it to become mandatory for every business which employs 30 or more people to have a dedicated Mental Health First Aider (MHFA).

According to HSE, 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 as a result of the condition, up from 12.5 million last year. This equates to 57.3 per cent of the 26.8 million work days lost to ill health.

We caught up with Craig Burton, Managing Director of The Works Recruitment for his view. 

“In our experience, workplace stress is a major issue which can have disastrous consequences if not addressed. The rise of the gig-economy means that there is now a dangerous gap in care for non-permanent workers, who are most at risk of falling through the cracks amid uncertainty around who is responsible for the occupational health of these individuals.

“Temporary workers don’t even have the benefit of established networks in the workplace which can be a lifeline for those in turmoil. This is why we’re campaigning to encourage other firms which recruit, manage and support contractors to join us and endorse Mental Health First Aid in their business.

“While it’s great to see that the government has pledged to invest in mental health in this year’s Budget – by promising an extra £250 million investment a year by 2023-24 into new ‘crisis services’ within A&E departments, schools, ‘safe havens’ in the community and through NHS 111 – employers and recruitment agencies do have a responsibility to support staff and contractors who may feel overwhelmed.

“We have ensured that all our consultants are trained in Mental Health First Aid, and we are urging other businesses to do the same. By doing so, they are better equipped to spot the signs of workplace stress or anxiety, such as frequent absenteeism, erratic behaviour or a fall in productivity. They are also trained to listen, give reassurance and information, and encourage appropriate professional help as well as self-help.”