A Thriving at Work report commissioned by Theresa May, published this week, reveals that the annual cost to the UK economy due to poor mental health is £99bn. Worryingly, the report revealed that 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs every year.
Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers
Paul Farmer (Mind chief executive) and Dennis Stevenson (former chairman of HBOS) who co-wrote the report stated that they were shocked at the scale of the problem. Their vision petitioned to the government to create a better working environment in ten years – is outlined below.
“This has turned out to be a very timely brief.
Our work has revealed that the UK is facing a mental health challenge at work that is much larger than we had thought. Not only is there a big human cost of poor mental health at work, there are also knock-on impacts for society, the economy and Government. Employers are losing billions of pounds because employers are
less productive, less effective, or off sick”.
Our vision – which is in our view wholly realistic – is that in ten years’ time the following changes will have happened:
• Employees in all types of employment will have “good work”, which contributes
positively to their mental health, our society and our economy.
• Every one of us will have the knowledge, tools and confidence, to understand and
look after our own mental health and the mental health of those around us;
• All organisations, whatever their size, will be:
· equipped with the awareness and tools to not only address but prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work;
· equipped to support individuals with a mental health condition to thrive,
from recruitment and throughout the organisation;
· aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by
mental ill health;
• We dramatically reduce the proportion of people with a long-term mental health condition who leave employment each year and ensure that all, who can benefit from the positive impacts of good work
Findings in the report include:
- 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year
- c.15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition
- Annual cost to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion
- The cost of poor mental health to Government is between £24 billion
“We need to move to a society where all of us become more aware of our own mental health, other people’s mental health and how to cope with our own and other people’s mental health when it fluctuates. It is all our responsibilities to make this change.”
The report makes 40 recommendations for changes to be accepted and supported by the government. “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.”
Recommendations for employers include;
- 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 your employees with good working conditions
- Promote effective people management
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
“Employers have a huge positive role to play in improving the nations mental health and it also makes perfect business sense to keep our colleagues as mentally ft and productive as possible. I particularly welcome the fact that the review suggests practical steps that large and small businesses can take to start moving forward on this vital topic.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, Heads Together
What does this mean for us all?
“This study has led us to conclude that underneath the stigma that surrounds mental health and prevents open discussion on the subject, the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work” – Thriving at Work report.
This report formally reveals the magnitude of the problem for individuals, businesses, government and the economy. However, what is the reality for us all?
We are currently working in a climate where most people are tenaciously holding on to their jobs, amidst mass insecurity post-Brexit. Speaking out may be what’s encouraged, but what are the risks of doing so?
“Many employers are already creating healthy, inclusive workplaces, but more needs to be done so that employers provide the support needed for employees with mental health conditions”
Prime Minister Theresa May, January 2017
The Thriving at Work report offers welcome and positive recommendations, but also outlines just how much work still needs to be done. Highlighting problems many people still face when attempting to manage their long-term mental health problems in the workplace. It is still a painful reality for many who still face discrimination in the workplace and for those who have lost their jobs when they disclose their mental health problems.
It is all very well charities and people campaigning for being able to openly talk about their mental health in the workplace. However until people are fully supported in doing so, many will still hide away in fear. This may manifest in more negative ways of coping (drinking, taking sick days) until a safe environment is guaranteed. For as many stories where there is support in the workplace, there are also horror stories where people haven’t been so lucky.
Let us know your comments below…
Broke Girl in the City is committed to promoting good mental health and wellness.
You can read the full Thriving at Work report here.
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|Disclaimer: I am not a trained professional and am only writing from a personal point of view. If ever you are suffering and feel suicidal, seek immediate help. Go to A+E or call your local GP.|