The Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has said that companies should offer support to employees going through divorce to help prevent them leaving work and ending up on benefits.
According to the Pensions Secretary, many people struggle with stress and anxiety at work as a result of family breakdown and that the Government was planning on encouraging companies to put more effort into identifying those at risk, providing support to help keep them in work.
A pilot scheme is being expanded by the Department of Work and Pensions designed to ensure that people who have mental health problems and are on benefits will get the treatment they need earlier in an effort to reduce the benefits bill and to increase the numbers who work.
Mr Duncan Smith has said that the key to help people during the early stages of depression to avoid problems spiralling out of control, leading to them crashing out of work.
Companies and Government need to address the mental health of people who are still in work to avoid them being on benefits in the future and Mr Duncan Smith told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that: “If you go to other countries like Germany and others they have a much more proactive process in trying to engage the worker at that point really, to find out what the problem is. Quite often they are really quite minor problems, they may be family problems, maybe there is family break up going on, or a hiatus or something that actually you can deal with.
They can be sent to some kind of help and support whether it is treatment if they are suffering some kind of mental health condition early on, stabilising them and keeping them in that job. So that is what we are now trying to focus our attention on is to get to people much earlier where they are work where they start to show indications of difficulty and start to get that treatment.
We would like to push companies even further to do more and we would like to support them to a greater degree.”
The Director of the Family Education Trust, Norman Wells, said that the huge impact that family breakdown can have on mental health and productivity at work is: “Not always appreciated as much as it should be. Likewise the positive benefits to health and productivity of a stable and intact family life.”
Iain Duncan Smith is undoubtedly correct in recognising that employers are often among the first people to discern the tell-tale signs of failing mental and emotional health and can play a valuable role in encouraging colleagues under strain to seek medical help.
He describes this as a more proactive approach, but is still a reaction to a problem that has already begun to manifest itself. As a society we need to be proactive at an earlier stage still.