"Thriving at Work", the review into mental health at work commissioned by the Prime Minister, has been published.

The facts

At the beginning of this year, the Prime Minister commissioned a report into mental health at work. The report, called "Thriving at Work", has now been published. Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, the Chief Executive of Mind, who jointly wrote the report, believe that the UK is facing a mental health challenge at work which is much larger than they had thought. According to their research, 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, and there is an annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion.

The review sets out a number of mental health core standards that the authors believe can be adopted across all workplaces at little or no cost. They emphasise their belief that change be encouraged by increasing employer transparency. The report sets out a vision that:

  • 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 awareness and tools to address and prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work,
    • equipped to support individuals with a mental health condition to thrive, and
    • aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence.

Highlights of the recommendations in the report likely to be of particular interest to employers are:

  • Employers, irrespective of size, should adopt mental health core standards so that all employers:

  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.

  5. Promote effective people management.

  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

  • All employers with more than 500 employees should deliver the following mental heath enhanced standards:

  1. Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting.

  2. Demonstrate accountability.

  3. Improve the disclosure process.

  4. Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical health.

  • The report calls on trade unions, industry groups, professional and regulatory bodies to help with the implementation of these standards.

  • The Government should set clearer expectations of employers through legislation, and should make statutory sick pay more flexible to better support people with mental health problems to make voluntary phased returns to work where appropriate.

  • The Government should do more to prevent and end employer practices which contravene employment and equalities legislation.

  • Specific areas of focus have been proposed for the three largest public employers - the NHS, Education, and the Civil Service. Particular focus should be given to areas of the public sector at highest risk of stress and trauma, and the need to establish clear accountability for supporting their mental health.

  • The report also notes that there is a significant role for NHS to support workplace mental health by ensuring support is accessible, high quality and fits around work.

What does this mean for employers?

This report sets out a very clear business imperative for managing mental health in the workplace. Many employers are already doing lots of good work in this area such as training staff how to spot and manage mental ill health in the workplace. Mental health first aid training is also proving popular. Considering whether to adopt some, or all of the recommendations for employers in this report is a sensible step for businesses wishing to support their staff and reduce the costs associated with mental ill health issues in the workplaces.

Thriving at Work report