The UK faces a “significant mental health challenge at work,” a review commissioned by the Prime Minister has found.

Thriving at Work, which was published in October 2017, states that around 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their job each year, putting the annual cost to the UK economy at £99 billion. Employers are shouldering the majority at between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with over half of that coming from presenteeism – when employees are physically present but are less productive due to poor mental health.

Thriving at Work: The cost of mental health problems in the workplaceThe cost of poor mental health to the Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion per year. This includes costs in providing benefits, falls in tax revenue and costs to the NHS.

The review says, “At a time when there is a national focus on productivity the inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of both employers and Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health. The UK can ill-afford the productivity cost of this poor mental health. It could be argued that these costs are the “normal” cost of being alive and doing business. Our work suggests strongly that this is not the case.”

The authors of the review – Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, and Dennis Stevenson, mental health campaigner and former HBOS chair – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health is 50% higher than for those forced to stop due to physical health conditions.

Farmer said all evidence suggests mental health is still a taboo subject in many work places and as result, the issue is largely ignored by employers. “We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

The report found that although the majority of businesses want to do the right thing in regards to mental health support, line managers lack the training, skills or confidence to effectively support others at a very basic level. Only 24% of managers surveyed have received some form of training on mental health at work.

Most employers are not regularly monitoring and assessing the mental health of their employees and 8 in 10 employers report no cases of employees disclosing a mental health condition.

Thriving at Work – Mental Health Core Standards

The review calls on employers, regardless of size or industry, to adopt six ‘mental health core standards’ that provide a framework for a set of actions the reviewers believe all organisations can implement quickly. These are:

  • Thriving at Work: mental health in the workplaceProduce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work/life balance and opportunities for development
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

The long term ambition is that many employers will go above and beyond these mental health core standards. As well as implementing these standards, employers can increase transparency and accountability around mental health through internal and external reporting. They can also improve the disclosure process and ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting towards clinical help.

Employers can also take a 360 degree approach to wellbeing in the workplace. Through tackling all aspects of workplace health and wellbeing, including stress management, musculoskeletal health, nutrition and management support and training, employers can tackle mental health at its root cause, before it becomes an issue.

Discover how our full-service, bespoke approach to wellbeing in the workplace can boost employee engagement, retention and productivity. Get in touch today.

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