Employers have a responsibility to ensure their employees are physically and mentally fit to work, one of the UK’s top graduate recruiters said – although the company’s employees will be relieved to hear bosses won’t be banning chocolate machines or enforcing compulsory lunchtime gym sessions.
EY – formerly Ernst and Young – has become the first professional services firm to sign up to eight pledges in the Department of Health’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the emotional, mental and physical health of its employees.
The Responsibility Deal pledge was officially be signed at an event last night which coincided with the launch of ‘Health EY’ – the firm’s new approach to employee health, mental health and well-being. EY also celebrated Time to Talk day, the official annual day of Time to Change, England’s biggest mental health anti-stigma programme.
The forward-thinking firm has been one of the most vocal big companies in the fight for a fairer deal for interns, and a fantastic ally for Graduate Fog and Intern Aware. EY was one of the first to twig that unpaid internships have a major impact on social mobility and to understand that ensuring fair access to the best jobs is vital for businesses, young people and society as a whole.
So far, over 635 companies have joined the Government’s voluntary Responsibility Deal since the scheme was introduced in 2011, pledging to improve the health of their employees, customers and the communities in which they operate. The pledges cover a range of areas, such as access to healthy eating options, staff health checks, use of accredited occupational health providers, and procedures to support staff with chronic illnesses.
Steve Varley, Chairman and Managing Partner of EY in the UK & Ireland explained:
“Our people are our business. With over 12,000 staff across the UK, it’s vital that we are providing the resources to enable each one of them to thrive. We aren’t about to remove the chocolate machines or enforce lunchtime gym sessions. But we are committed to providing the support and knowledge to enable them to take control of their own physical and mental health.”
EY’s approach to employee well-being includes the roll out of Mental Health First Aiders across the firm. Employees will be trained to act as a first point of call for staff facing mental health challenges or seeking advice. The firm has also formed a mental health buddy scheme to provide an informal support network to anyone affected by a mental health condition. Steve Wilkinson, EY’s UK & Ireland Managing Partner for client service, and Partner Sponsor of Health EY explained:
“Within our new programme we have placed an increased emphasis on tackling the stigma of mental health, which is often viewed as the last workplace taboo. The introduction of mental health first aiders and a buddy system will supplement our existing employee networks, providing a great way to get people talking about an issue that affects over one in six people in the UK.”
Health Minister Earl Howe, who spoke at last night’s event, said:
“It’s good to see a leading high profile organisation like EY putting employee health, including mental health, firmly on their HR agenda and signing up to the Responsibility Deal pledges. At any time, one in six adults will be experiencing a mental health condition. Most of these people are of working age and are in employment.
“Mental health conditions cost UK businesses £8.4 billion in sickness absence and a further £15.1 billion in lost productivity. For business, economic and moral reasons, it is therefore important that employers play their part in supporting people with such conditions to retain their jobs, and when they are absent in enabling them to return to work as soon as they can.
“Thoughtful, well informed management in respect of employees’ mental and physical health can produce real benefits. Besides reduced sickness absence, those benefits include better staff engagement, improved productivity, and reduced staff turnover.”
Graduate Fog is excited to see EY stepping up yet again, on the issues that matter most to young workers. We know that starting a your career can be stressful, and people in their early twenties are at a high risk of suffering mental health problems. It is vital that forward-thinking firms lead the way to ensure that all their employees are properly looked after, so they can get on and do their very best work.
*HAVE YOU SUFFERED HEALTH PROBLEMS SINCE YOU GRADUATED?
If you were working, how supportive was your employer? If you were unemployed, what help did you find? Are initiatives like the Responsibility Deal just a gimmick – or are you optimistic that companies like EY really are changing their attitudes towards the health and wellbeing of their staff? To have your say, please post your comment below…