Posted: Thu 26th Oct 2017
Up to 300,000 people with mental health issues are being forced to quit their jobs every year in the UK, according to a new report.
The government-commissioned Thriving at Work study said poor mental health is costing businesses between £33bn and £42bn due to sickness and absence and the economy as a whole is missing out on up to £99bn annually.
The UK "faces a significant mental health challenge at work", the report commented, with the rate of job losses much higher than as a result of physical health conditions, with 15% of employed people with symptoms of an existing mental health condition.
The authors of the report made 40 recommendations for how the government and employers can better support staff.
They said all employers should:
Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
Develop mental health awareness among employees
Encourage open conversations and the support available when employees are struggling
Provide your employees with good working conditions
Promote effective people management
Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
The study said small businesses will find it harder to implement mental health standards than large companies with existing structures so it called on joined up efforts from organisations already working with small businesses and the self-employed.
A major bank, it claimed, has stated it "may be prepared to help implement [the standards] among their SME customers."
The report recommended that the government looks at incentivising SMEs to better support employees including building on evidence from the West Midlands 'wellbeing premium' trial, a tax incentive for promoting staff wellbeing.
Digital technology should also be used to support workers in the gig economy and other self-employed business owners, while Local Enterprise Partnerships and other networks should be supported by government departments in helping business owners tackle the problem.
In a letter to the prime minister, report authors Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer said: "The UK could and should be one of the leading nations in relation to mental health.
"If the UK prioritises mental health at work, we can become global leaders in reducing stigma, improving the mental health of the population and support for those who need it, and in the process improve the UK's productivity."
Theresa May commented: "We need to take action.
That's why I am immediately asking NHS England and the Civil Service, which together employ more than two million people, to accept the recommendations that apply to them.
"With so many of our leading businesses leading the way in this area, and reaping the rewards as a result, I am sure that the private sector will follow suit.
"It is only by making this an everyday concern for everyone that we change the way we see mental illness so that striving to improve your mental health, whether at work or at home, is seen as just as positive as improving our physical wellbeing."
Get more tips for helping employees remain healthy and stress-free in the Business Health Hub