The real cost to your business of ignoring employee mental health: the shocking statistics revealed in the latest government commissioned review.

Since being elected, Theresa May has assured us that mental health is on her agenda; she’s vowed to transform care services and make mental health awareness part of the National Citizen Service programme for teenagers. But the problem is becoming urgent and we no longer have the luxury of waiting for the government to act.

A review commissioned by May, revealed that the annual cost to employers of mental ill health in the UK is between £33 billion and £42 billion. It can be hard to digest figures like that; the magnitude of them almost detracts from their meaning. To an individual business, it could almost seem like somebody else’s problem. But with 15% of people at work having symptoms of an existing mental health condition, it’s very much everybody’s problem and there’s no excuse not to take action.

Whether you like it or not, mental ill health is costing your organisation, in probably more ways than one. There is the obvious sickness absence cost of the employees taking time off and the cost of lower productivity, but there are also turnover costs from recruitment and training new employees when people with mental ill health need to take long-term time off or leave the organization. This brings me on to another shocking statistic; 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year. This is the equivalent to the whole population of Newcastle. This is a way to keep these people in employment and it starts with better; awareness, support and working environments.

Pressure is on employers (being the focus of this review) as they have the most potential for impact and scope to make an impact in a more urgent manner.

If you haven’t found the time to read the 81-page report, here are some summarizing points:

The review suggests all businesses implementing some mental health core standards. This means you too, SMEs. This process does not need to be costly or cumbersome, but it is essential, if we are going to break the back of the mental health crisis we are facing. The review stated that all employers can and should:

1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
2. Develop mental health awareness among employees
3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development
5. Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors
6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

Some basic awareness training should be key. If you employ people, you are responsible for their health and safety and health includes mental as well as physical.

Point number five will also require some companies to assess whether they support effective people management. When did you last refresh your leadership training? How emotionally intelligent are your leadership team? Are they likely to display empathy and compassion when faced with mental illness at work? Poor management can be extremely stressful and can trigger or worsen mental health illnesses. If you are going to change the way your business deals with mental health, then you need to take a top-down approach and get managers at all levels on board.

The good news is, the review outlines research carried out by Deloitte that found the return on investment of workplace mental health interventions is overwhelming positive. The average return per £1 spent was £4.20, making mental health training programmes a sound investment for businesses. Not to mention that the tax system encourages employers to invest in staff mental health, with exemptions and reductions for training in this area.

There are no easy answers for mental illness and no quick-fix solution to solving the crisis, but we can no longer shirk the issue; it’s on our doorsteps, in fact it’s banging on our doors. It’s time for employers to step up and start to tackle the elephant in the room by providing awareness training, support and the right conditions to promote good mental health.

You can read the full review here.


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