Mental health & employers report: “Thriving at Work”

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Last week witnessed the launch of a major new report with implications for all employers across the UK.

The Stevenson/ Farmer review of mental health and employers was in response to a call from the Prime Minister in January this year to explore how employers can better support all individuals currently in employment, including those with mental ill health or poor well-being.  The outcome is a report brimming with stark facts and bold ideas as to how to tackle this major issue.  And the facts demonstrate that this really is a big challenge for workers, employers, and the wider UK economy.  The report states:

  • 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year
  • Around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition
  • The annual cost to employers is between £33bn and £42bn
  • The annual cost to the Government is between £24bn and £27bn
  • The annual cost to the UK economy as a whole is between £74bn and £99bn

These numbers would be worrying at any time, but are even more concerning given the UK’s on-going productivity crisis, and of course the impending departure from the European Union.  The need for the entire country to fully understand this issue and take corrective action is therefore evident.

But where to start?  The Executive Summary states that the rather refreshing “approach and vision” of the report’s authors is:

“We start from the position that the correct way to view mental health is that we all have it and we fluctuate between thriving, struggling and being ill and possibly off work.  People with poor mental health including common mental health problems and severe mental illness can be in any of these groups.  An individual can have a serious mental health problem but – with the right support – can still be thriving at work.” 

When the facts and mission statement are taken together, it is apparent that UK employers have a vested interest in better supporting their employees.  And the report makes 6 key recommendations for employers:

“We recommend that all employers, regardless of workplace type, industry or size adopt the mental health core standards…  we believe all employers can and should:

1)  Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan

2)  Develop mental health awareness among employees

3)  Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling

4)  Provide your employees with good working conditions

5)  Promote effective people management

6)  Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.”

Now items 4 and 5 should of course be a given for most employers in the 21st Century, but the other four recommendations are much less likely to be adhered to by all but the largest of organisations.  So this is a big ask in challenging times for employers, but one that the UK really must embrace none the less.

The report also calls on Government to use its influence, purchasing, and legislative power to encourage faster change.  And given the timing of the report – plus the support of the Prime Minister regarding this topic – it will be very interesting to see if any steps are taken to support this issue in the Chancellor’s Budget Speech on 22nd November.

This is certainly a topic we will be returning to during 2018, as Employee Benefits do of course have a key role to play in supporting the good mental health of employees.

Best regards


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About the author

Steve Herbert is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions and Employee Benefit issues. His principal aim is better communicating the value and usage of employee benefits to employers. This he has achieved through many (highly successful) seminar series over the last decade, and his regular and widely read blog posts on the subject.
He also acts as a judge in HR and Employee Benefits industry awards, article writer, and product innovator. Steve is a regular contributor to DWP forums and compulsive responder to formal Government Consultations on pension and employee benefit issues. He is occasionally accused of making employee benefits interesting.