In the past few years, the business conversation around mental health has increased.
This has been influenced in part by:
- The worrying statistics around mental health in the workplace and the impact on society, businesses and government
- The increasing evidence that happy and healthy people are more engaged and productive and therefore improve company performance.
The political driver
In 2016, the main political party’s election manifestos acknowledged that there was not enough support available to help people with mental health challenges. This highlighted the gap in both employment law and disability discrimination law: where much of the focus has been on dealing with physical health conditions, with minimal focus on mental health conditions.
In January 2017 the Prime Minister commissioned a review by Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (CEO of Mind, and Chair of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce) into workplace mental health. The review was tasked with increasing protection from discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental ill-health, by looking at how employers can better support the mental health of all people currently in employment, including those with mental health problems or poor wellbeing, so that they can both remain in and thrive through work.
The Stevenson/Farmer Review
In the review ‘Thriving at work’, published in October 2017, Stevenson and Farmer revealed the scale of the problem and their vision for 2027.
The report highlighted that underneath the stigma that prevents open discussion on the subject, the UK is facing a mental health challenge at work, much more significant than initially thought, with significant knock on impacts for society, the economy and the government.
While there are more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before, 300,000 people with a long-term mental health issue lose their jobs each year and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions. Poor mental health has an impact on the lives of many individuals and those around them, in a variety of ways, reducing their ability to manage elements of both their personal and work life. The human cost is huge, with the ultimate cost being of loss of life through suicide.
With the help of an independent study on the cost to employers commissioned from Deloitte, they also found that:
- There is a large annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion linked to poor mental health. Over half of this comes from presenteeism (when individuals are less productive at work, due to poor mental health). The rest comes from sickness absence and staff turnover
- The cost of poor mental health to Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion. This includes costs associated with lost tax revenue, the provision of benefits and the burden on the NHS
- The cost to the economy, as a whole, is more than both of these figures put together. It is estimated at between £74 billion and £99 billion per year.
Clearly, the UK can ill-afford the productivity cost of this poor mental health and whilst it could be argued that these costs are the “normal” cost of being alive and doing business, the findings suggest strongly that this is not the case.
The positive news
The positive news is that Deloitte’s analysis of the case studies where investments have been made in improving mental health show a consistently positive return on investment. This finding is bolstered by a number of academic meta-studies which demonstrate the benefits of good work for mental health. It is also bolstered by Stevenson and Farmers own conversations with over 200 organisations where successful investments in improving the mental health of employees has reaped significant improvements.
So, at a time when there is a national focus on productivity, the inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of employers to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental wellbeing in their workplace.
The full report
Click here to read the full Thriving At Work review.