It is essential employers understand the stress their workers will go through when they are given an overseas assignment, from the preparation of the trip to returning back home, as well as offering mental health support to their staff throughout the process.
In light of today (10th September) being world suicide prevention day, Towergate Health & Protection, a business that offers health insurance, screening and wellbeing advice to businesses have given their advice on how an employee can feel more relaxed whilst taking part in an overseas project.
There were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK in 2018, which according to the office of national statistics (ONS) is the first rise in suicide figures since 2013.
Mind, the mental health charity found that people’s jobs is the single biggest cause of stress, and so Towergate believes workers who are set to go abroad should be supported and receive more attention.
James Rudoni, managing director of mates in Mind said:
What we also know from data previously reported by the ONS (2017) is that this risk is elevated in some sectors of the economy, such as construction, and within the sector the suicide risk is three times the national average for site workers. We affirm there is both a moral as well as clear business case for organisations to be aware of this issue, understand that they have a duty of care and recognise that they can play a critical role in tackling it.
Towergate feel businesses need to prepare their employees to work in a new country and “not assume they will have prior knowledge about local conditions or cultural norms.” They also believe it is a good idea to prepare an itinerary for their employees whilst they are away so there is a plan in place.
It is also pivotal to maintain communication with an employee located overseas, this can help the business ensure the worker’s wellbeing. Also the business can promote positive culture by “creating a supportive environment to help identify individuals that could be at risk as they adjust back home, including talking openly about mental health.”
In the UK, the Government is “obliged” to take responsibility for creating safe work environments, as it is recognised as a public health issue under a 2014 law. In Japan, suicide rates “border on crisis level” as an estimated five per cent of all suicides are company-related.
All employers have a duty of care to their staff’s mental and physical needs. Towergate believes it is a good idea to put the employee who is going to work abroad in touch with another member of staff who has done it previously in order to talk things through.
Employee assistance programmes (EAP) can also be helpful for employees during such times as it offers support to staff who are working abroad.
Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection said:
Companies can play an important role in suicide prevention, and it’s essential that businesses identify good practice around workplace policies on mental health. Being aware of the potential challenging times for staff positioned internationally is the first step, and it’s crucial that support is offered throughout the duration of assignments. The provision of a Global EAP, which provides access to specialists that have worked in a foreign country and understand the problems first-hand, can be a great support for those overseas.