Small business owners battle mental health issues, new Lancashire survey says

Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
The Lancashire-based Federation of Small Businesses says that a new study has found that one in three business owners have suffered Covid-linked mental health decline.

It said the research, timed for the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week, highlights Covid’s negative impact on mental health of close to two million entrepreneurs.

And the UK’s largest business group is calling for action to tackle isolating late payment culture, with loneliness the focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

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The group is also encouraging the introduction of fresh initiative to replace the New Enterprise Allowance, improved Access to Work take-up and introduction of small business statutory sick pay rebate.

Its survey of 1,000 business owners finds that a third (34 per cent) of all small business owners state that their mental health declined over the course of the pandemic. Latest Government figures show that there are 5.5 million small businesses across the UK, indicating that 1,800,000 have suffered a mental wellbeing hit due to Covid.

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Across all respondents, one in four report that they currently have a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress.

Among disabled entrepreneurs, the figure rises to four in ten. One in seven small business owners report having a mild mental health condition.

Six in ten small business owners state that they were subject to late or non-payment after Covid hit, with a quarter stating that dealing with poor payment impacted their mental wellbeing during the pandemic.

In light of the findings, FSB is encouraging the Government to:

Improve Access To Work take-up by ensuring health professionals point patients towards the scheme when writing fit notes.Launch a new, ambitious alternative to the New Enterprise Allowance to help those with mental health conditions who are out of work to create start-ups.Make Audit Committees directly responsibility for supply chain practice, elevating the importance of prompt payment within corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) programmes, and place ending the UK’s late payment culture at the heart of BEIS’s forthcoming enterprise strategy.

FSB Policy and Advocacy chairman Tina McKenzie said: “Whether it’s the migrant entrepreneur suffering post-traumatic stress, the aspiring start-up creator wrestling with depression as they struggle to find work, or the thousands of business owners who feel isolated and hopeless because of late payment, policymakers should reflect on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs during this Mental Health Awareness week.

“By building on, and promoting access to, the support that’s already available to business owners and their teams, the Government can make a real difference to mental wellbeing.

“Over the years, we’ve seen how a worsening late payment culture – which sees corporates use suppliers as free credit lines – has sucked the joy out of running a small business for millions, leaving many feeling completely alone, and forcing thousands to close.

“The cost of having staff away from the workplace, including finding cover, ran into the billions for small firms last year at a time when cash reserves were stretched and the spectre of trading restrictions was ever present.

“They urgently need more support to go on doing right by their staff. We hope to see the Government take forward our joint proposal with the TUC for a targeted statutory sick pay rebate.”