According to a recent report, 300,000 people with long term mental health problems are set to lose their jobs each year.
The report, Thriving at Work which was published on Thursday estimated the annual cost to the UK economy to be up to £99bn. £43bn of this is borne by employers.
The authors of the report include Paul Farmer, Mind chief executive and Dennis Stevenson, a mental health campaigner and former HBOS chair. They said they were shocked to find the amount of people forced to stop working due to a mental health condition was 50% higher than for those suffering from a physical health condition.
Farmer has highlighted that mental health is still a taboo subject in many workplaces, with many simply not knowing how to deal with employees with conditions. “We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”
Their research found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of a mental health condition and for many the issue is not formally addressed. The authors suggest that these findings could explain the UK’s relatively low productivity levels. This problem has a clear economic impact that many workplaces are not looking at for a variety of reasons.
Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors said that keeping mental health in mind made sense for businesses. “Mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”
The authors want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health. This includes having a plan in place, increasing awareness and education for all employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and monitoring employee mental health and wellbeing.
“What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff. As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards,” said Farmer.
The report makes 40 recommendations in total, Stevenson urges the government to accept all of them. He said: “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan.”
What can employers do to help?
The report suggests that employers create a mental health at work plan, build awareness and make information and support readily available. Educating staff to recognise the symptoms of mental illness can help them support each other where they may not have noticed a problem before.
The authors encourage workplaces to have open and regular conversations about health and wellbeing between managers and their staff. A healthy work-life balance is also important to encourage. Things like flexible working can help support those with conditions.
What do you think of the report’s findings? How do you manage staff health and wellbeing? Please let us know your thoughts.
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An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.