A quarter of small business owners in the UK do not feel confident they would be able to recognise and address ill health, stress or depression among their staff, with one in three bosses believing it is ‘none of their business’.

More than half (55%) confessed they regularly discussed the weather with an employee but only one in four (27%) would discuss an employee’s health, according to Bupa research.

Yet stress is likely to cost them thousands of pounds every year in absence and lost productivity. It is estimated that mental health problems such as stress cost the UK economy £26bn a year in absence, presenteeism and staff turnover, and in a small business environment, absence can create additional stress for those employees left picking up the additional workload.

Tony Wood, Sales and Marketing Director at Bupa, said:

“It’s never easy to tackle personal issues with employees, but a workplace environment that champions open lines of communication can prevent issues from snowballing.

“A big challenge is addressing the stigma often attached to any form of mental illness, particularly in an economic environment where there is uncertainty on job security.”

Just under a quarter of small business owners (24%) admitted they would rather not speak to anyone about a problem raised by an employee.

Dr Jenny Leeser, Clinical Director of Occupational Health at Bupa, said:

“Nobody expects bosses to solve all of a person’s issues but there may be adjustments that really help, such as altering hours on a temporary basis. All companies have a Health and Safety Policy, so why not a Stress and Mental Health Policy too?”