Afa Försäkring funds research into the role of managers and mental illness in the workplace

11 May 2021

Mature businessman using a digital tablet to discuss information with a younger colleague in a modern business lounge

According to the Work Environment Act in Sweden, employers and managers are responsible for the health and safety of employees and for preventing sick leave. Although mental illness is the most common cause of sick leave, there is a lack of knowledge about how well-equipped managers are to support employees with mental health problems. In a new study, funded by ICMIF member Afa Försäkring, researchers have explored managers’ knowledge, experiences and strategies for depression or anxiety in employees.

In a webinar hosted by Afa Försäkring earlier this month, Monica Bertilsson, senior lecturer in public health science at the University of Gothenburg presented a new study in this field and said: “The few previous studies that have been done show that prejudices against mental illness, both at home and in the workplace, make it more difficult for managers to deal with this type of problem. Managers find that mental health problems are more difficult to deal with than physical ones and have difficulty understanding how they affect their ability to work. There is also a lack of knowledge, support and resources to support employees who are affected by adapting the tasks.”

Monica Bertilsson has investigated how managers handle employees who suffer from depression or anxiety disorder.

“Of the 3,358 managers who participated in our project, half had over the past two years reviewed employees’ work tasks and work situation to prevent depression and anxiety. One connection we found was that managers who stated that they had a work environment responsibility were also more likely to take preventive measures in the event of mental illness. The same applied to managers with longer experience and female managers,” said Monica Bertilsson.

Employers can apply for rehabilitation support

During the webinar, Afa Försäkring’s rehabilitation support was presented. Emma Aronsson, coordinator at Afa Försäkring said: “The social partners set aside funds so that employers can apply for support when employees are in need of work-oriented rehabilitation. This can be physical or mental problems. The support can be applied for either for a preventive effort or for the employee to be able to return to work.”

Afa Försäkring is owned by Sweden’s labour market parties. It insures employees within the private sector, municipalities and county councils. Today more than four point eight million people are covered by at least one Afa Försäkring insurance cover. In addition to its core insurance activities, Afa Försäkring manages knowledge and resources, and works to prevent ill-health in the workplace including many research projects such as this one on mental health in the workplace. In this way, collectively agreed insurance lays the foundations for a better working life, with greater security for all.

Day-to-day work at Afa Försäkring is all about creating better conditions for people in their working lives. The insurer administers good insurance cover, manages the knowledge from its collectively agreed insurances and its assets with a long-term perspective, and works in a preventive capacity to promote a better working environment and better health. In this way Afa Försäkring brings these three business areas together which gives its work a unique strength, providing insurance for a better working life.

For member-only strategic content on the cooperative/mutual insurance sector, ICMIF members have exclusive access to a range of online resources through the ICMIF Knowledge Hub.

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