Mental health challenges in the workplace

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On 25 October 2017, the Stevenson/Farmer independent review into workplace mental health, commissioned by the Prime Minister in January, published its report. The review, Thriving at Work, looks at how employers can better support all employees, including those with poor mental health or wellbeing, to remain in and thrive at work.

The UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work and the government as well as employers in every sector cannot stand idle and ignore this important issue. Statistics provided by the Mental Health Foundation, Deloitte and the Review highlight that:

-          1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%).

-          Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% v 10.9%).

-          300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year.

-          The annual cost of poor mental health to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion and the same cost to Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion.

These statistics, as well as the many benefits of improving mental health in the workplace, are one of the numerous reasons why the Review’s vision to improve ‘mental health core standards’ (a framework for a set of actions which all organisations in the country can implement) should and can be achieved. These mental health core standards are as follows:

-          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 employees with good working condition and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development;

-          Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors;

-          Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing. 

This is a good starting point, however, it may be more effective if organisations used these core standards as the foundation for more practical guidelines to dispense in the workplace setting out achievable and real action plans for the betterment of mental health in the workplace.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind commented that, ‘in many instances employers simply don’t understand the crucial role they can play, or know where to go for advice and support’. Employers have a responsibility to support employees with mental health problems and promote the mental wellbeing of their entire workforce and if organisations do not have workable measures in place to do so, they should address this as a matter of priority and urgency. The human cost of failing to address mental health in the workplace is too clear.

Leyton Legal