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Home > News > Mental Health at Work

Mental Health at Work

30 October 2017 | Cecily Donoghue

The Stevenson/Farmer review “Thriving at Work” has been published last week. Gregg Latchams’ Employment solicitor, Cecily Donoghue, summarises the report’s findings, which you can read in full here.

The study concludes that the UK is facing a mental health challenge at work much larger than initially thought. Not only is there a big impact on the individuals themselves, but employers are losing billions of pounds because employees are less productive, less effective, or off sick.

Key facts

  • Around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.
  • 300,000 people with long term mental health condition leave employment every year.
  • The annual cost to employers is between £33 – £42 billion.

As you can see from the graphic above from the report, ultimately the human cost is huge. Crucially, poor mental health also impacts the lives of many individuals personally, and those around them as mental illnesses impact all parts of life from work to home and suicide rates are higher for employees in certain industries.

The impact of poor mental health on employers

  1. Sickness absence – mental health is one of the greatest causes of sickness absence.
  2. Presenteeism – turning up to work when ill resulting in loss of productivity, and making the individual’s condition worse, is on the increase.
  3. Limiting progression – few managers or directors declare that they have a mental health condition as there is a perception that this will hamper progression. This results in loss of diversity and skills throughout organisations.
  4. Impact on wider workforce – if problems are left unmanaged there can be an impact on other members of the team. Absence increases the workload on other members of the team.
  5. Impact on employee turnover – an employee may leave their job if they feel unable to continue at work due to their mental health, creating recruitment and training costs for employers by finding new staff and training them to make them fully effective.

The great work that is currently in place

But it’s not all bad news: the report found that great steps have already been taken by a number of employers and groups. The return on investment of workplace mental health interventions is positive. The average return per £1 spend is £4.20 (with a range between 40p and £9).

The Report’s suggestions:

Core standards

  • These provide a framework for workplace mental health and these can be tailored to suit a variety of workplaces in terms of size and industry.
  • 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 your employees with good working conditions
  • Promote effective people management
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

Enhanced standards

  • For those who employ over 500 employees.
  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
  • Demonstrate accountability
  • Improve the disclosure process
  • Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help

Impact on SMEs

The report concluded that:

  • 60% of employees in the private sector work for SMEs (businesses who employ less than 250 members of staff).
  • SMEs account for 99% of UK businesses.
  • Lack of time and resources may mean that they are not all able to offer as much support and tend to be reactive to mental health issues.
  • Only 1 in 10 SMEs offer occupational health support.
  • They are less likely to utilise existing government support programmes.
  • They are less likely to have mental health policies in place.

On a positive note, many SME cultures are more conducive to good mental health due to closer relationships, and individuals understanding the part they play in the business.

Help is on its way – the report included a specific recommendation that the Government and other organisations should focus information, support, and funding to support small and medium sized business to implement the mental health core standards and ensure the impact of this is evaluated.

If your business would like advice on how to assist your employees and manage the impact of mental health at work, please contact our employment team.




The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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