This study has led us to conclude that underneath the stigma that surrounds mental health and prevents open discussion on the subject, the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work.
• While there are more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before, 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year1, and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions.
• Behind this, our analysis shows that around 15% of people at work2 have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.
The human cost is huge, with poor mental health having an impact on the lives of many individuals and those around them. This manifests itself in a variety of ways both at work and at home, and impacts a person’s ability to manage other elements of their personal life.
We have also found:
• There is a large annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion (with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work) with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover.
• The cost of poor mental health to Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion. This includes costs in providing benefits, falls in tax revenue and costs to the NHS.
• The cost of poor mental health to the economy as a whole is more than both of those together from lost output, at between £74 billion and £99 billion per year.
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.
Our vision is that in ten years’ time the following changes will have happened:
- Employees in all types of employment have good work, which contributes positively to their mental health, our society and our economy.
- Every one of us will have the knowledge, tools and confidence, to understand and look after our own mental health and the mental health of those around us.
- All organisations, whatever their size, will be:
- equipped with the awareness and tools to not only address but prevent mental ill-health caused or worsened by work;
- equipped to support individuals with a mental health condition to thrive from recruitment, and throughout the organisation;
- aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill health;
- All of these measures result in dramatically reducing the proportion of people with a long term mental health condition who leave employment each year and ensure that all who can, benefit from the positive impacts of good work.As we outline in the review, we believe that the number of people leaving work with mental health problems could be reduced by 100,000 to bring the number in line with physical health conditions in the first instance.
How can this vision be achieved?
To achieve this, the report sets out what we describe as “mental health core standards” – a framework for a set of actions which we believe all organisations in the country are capable of implementing quickly. These mental health core standards are as follows:
• Produce, 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.
These mental health core standards are drawn from best practice and, as far as possible, are evidence based, albeit we feel there is a pressing need for more evidence. In Annex A the reader will find guidance, suggestions, and tools to help with implementing the standards.
The report also outlines a series of more ambitious ‘enhanced’ standards for employers who can and should do more to lead the way, building on the mental health core standards these are as follows:
• Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
• Demonstrate accountability
• Improve the disclosure process
• Ensure provision of tailored in-housemental health support and signposting to clinical help.
Three other factors will help the implementation of these “mental health core and enhanced standards”.
1. Increasing employer transparency presents the biggest opportunity to encourage a greater breadth and depth of employer action on mental health, and strong leadership is vital to ensuring this change is felt throughout organisations. Employer action on mental health is intrinsically measurable. Increased transparency will go a long way to generating a culture of measurement and will enable the development of voluntary ranking schemes to help drive accountability and further improvement.
2. While we believe that it is clearly in the interests of all businesses and organisations to implement these mental health core and enhanced standards, we are calling on trade unions, industry groups, professional and regulatory bodies to help with the implementation of these standards.
3. Digital tools and products are an enabler of change and there is a significant opportunity for low cost, scalable interventions in workplaces. We are witnessing an explosion of such technology and it is vital that there is a firm evidence base that is accessible for employers and employees.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Thriving at work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers