What can employers do to better support employees with mental health at work?
On 26 October 2017, an independent review, “Thriving at Work”, was published by Stevenson and Farmer looking at what employers can do better to support employees, including those with mental health problems, to remain in and thrive through work.
The report reviews and illustrates the challenges that individuals, families, communities and wider society are up against: 300,000 employees with long term mental health lose their jobs each year (a much higher rate for those suffering with a physical health condition) and around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition. The review further reports that the cost to employers (i.e. taking into account factors including sickness and staff turnover) is between £33 billion and £42 billion, and the cost of poor mental health to Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion. Based on these statistics as well as other factors, the review concludes that the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work.
What can be done to improve the wellbeing and tackle mental health?
The review’s vision and approach is that we start to recognise that we all have mental health and that we need to move to a society which is more aware of our own and other people’s mental health. The review further focuses on employment, because employers are able to have the greatest impact and scope to make a difference by creating a positive and supportive workplace culture, which is free from mental health stigma.
The review presents an encouraging vision of the future:
- Every employee will have the knowledge, tools and confidence, to understand and look after their own mental health and help those around them;
- Employees in all types of employment have good work, which contributes positively to all staff mental health;
- All the measures will dramatically reduce the proportion of people with long term mental health conditions who leave employment each year.
How can this vision be achieved?
The review quantifies how investing in supporting mental health at work is good for business and productivity, and the report further aims to help employers and government bodies to achieve this vision by 40 recommendations, they include:
- All employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt six ‘mental health core standards’ that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health;
- Public and private sector employers, whatever size, should take additional steps through a set of ‘mental health enhanced standards’; and
- The review makes a series of recommendations to government and other bodies.
The intended outcome of this review is to create an open and transparent working environment, where employers are able to intervene early when employees are struggling, to remove the stigma of disclosing a mental health condition and to eliminate the barrier to employees seeking support.