Mental health strategies at work ‘no longer a choice for employers’.

mental health employers accountable

Mental health strategies at work may no longer be a choice for employers following a new report.

The new report, Thriving at Work, makes 40 recommendations about how employers and the government can better support employees to remain at work. The government, which commissioned the report, says it will consider legislative changes to improve mental health at work.

The report, which was written by Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity and former HBOS chair, Lord Dennis Stevenson, found that an estimated 300,000 people with mental health problems lose their jobs each year. It also says that poor mental health costs the UK economy up to £99bn a year and that the cost of poor mental health to the government is between £24 billion and £27 billion.

The authors said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Employers

The report calls for all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees and encouraging conversations about mental health, stipulating line management responsibilities and training staff and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing.

“What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

The review also recommends that professional bodies should implement training and support measures for their employer members and that employers should be encouraged by legislation to report publicly on their workforce’s mental health. Currently only 11% of companies include a section on employee mental health in their annual reports, the report found.

It points out the cost of poor mental health to employers, putting it at between £33nn and £42bn. More than half of this comes from ‘presenteeism’ – that is, people who are at work but less productive due to poor mental health.

Commenting on the report and the recommendations, Tom Oxley, lead consultant at Bamboo Workplace Mental Health says: “The vision is very positive but shows mental health strategies at work are no longer a choice. But employers are going to have to dig deep when legislation hits home, despite a hint of government funding. Public accountability is going to be a major concern for employers.”

What do you think? Do the recommendations go far enough? Is it practical and financially reasonable for employers to implement these changes? How can/should employers responsibly and sensitively report on their employees’ mental health?

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