It’s time US small businesses took care of mental health | US Small Business

RMost recently the Society of Human Resources Executives questioned Around 3,100 HR executives on the benefits their companies provide, and of course the obvious ones – health care, retirement and paid time off – topped the list. But here’s something that should get your attention if you’re a small business owner: More than 91% of respondents also said their business provides some type of mental health benefits, up from 86% in 2018 and significantly is higher than any level in the last ten years.

That’s not difficult to understand. Thanks to the pandemic and other stresses of modern life, countless Americans are suffering from mental health issues. Awareness of the issue has risen in recent years, thanks in part to public announcements by celebrities from tennis star Naomi Osaka to gymnast Simone Biles. Survey after survey reminds employers that their employees are increasingly stressed and the more attention must be paid for their mental health problems.

And yet many of my clients – small business owners – still don’t seem to get the message. So I’ll tell you about a recent court case that should catch your attention.

According to numerous reports, including This one here Last March, legal website JD Supra ordered a Kentucky company to pay an employee $450,000 for wrongfully terminating him after he suffered two panic attacks at work. The employee, who suffers from an anxiety disorder, was triggered by a birthday party thrown for him and left work abruptly. He was later fired because he “concerned other employees were afraid for their safety when the employee was having the panic attacks.”

After a two-day trial, a jury ruled in favor of the worker, stating that he had a defined disability and was able to perform essential duties of his job, but suffered an adverse employment complaint as a result of his disability. The award included both past and future lost wages and benefits, as well as pain and agony.

Why did I show this to my customers? Because my company serves hundreds of small businesses and most of them fit the typical employer-owned business demographics. They are family-run, B2B, industrial or service-oriented, and generally still under the control of someone over 50, which is the average age of US small business owners Small business administration.

This is a generation – my generation – that was raised to ignore mental health issues. These are things that are best dealt with privately and not at work. Mental illness is not like a physical illness, our parents told us. It’s just a thing in your head. Turn it off. Get over it.

But that attitude is changing rapidly and significantly.

Thanks to the pandemic and the growing number of younger workers who are openly discussing these issues with their friends and on social media, mental health is no longer a stigma or an issue to be brushed aside or covered up. Smart employers recognize that the provision of mental health benefits needs to be a core part of their overall rewards packages in order to attract and retain the best employees in these times of job shortages.

“Stress at work is a fact of life for every employee”, writes Employment attorney Howard Levitt on the Kentucky case. He says these issues “can politicize the workplace and divert attention from work” and that “aside from operational issues, workplace stressors can also lead to serious employer liability if not addressed quickly and appropriately.”

But some of my older clients still don’t get it. They see mental health issues as a weakness, a character flaw, an excuse from a younger generation that is “softer” than their own. I realize that with some of these customers I will not change their minds. But they need to understand that ignoring this trend will result in new talent being lost and may even lead some of their existing employees to seek other opportunities with companies that are more aware of their situation.

I try to tell them that with mixed results. But now I have to try something new: the Kentucky case. Because I know one thing is for sure: the threat of having to spend $500,000 because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing can be the motivation some business owners need.

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