Mental Health at Work

10 Oct
by Suzie Business Owner & Senior HRBP



Mental health issues cost UK employers £30 billion per year through recruitment, lost production and absence. A study by the charity Business in the Community highlights a change in attitudes to mental health in the workplace and shows that more and more employers are recognising they have a responsibility towards their employees’ mental wellbeing.


What is mental health?


This can range from feeling ‘a bit down’ to such disorders as anxiety and depression. In severe cases, it can also mean bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Mental health relates to how we cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. When we feel good about ourselves, we are usually able to work productively, interact well with colleagues and make valuable contributions in the workplace.


Mental health in the workplace


Many employees in the UK have experienced mental health issues caused by work yet more than a million people have faced a negative response following disclosure of their condition to their employer, according to the Mental Health at Work report published by Business in the Community in advance of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday 10th October.


In a survey by YouGov, of over 3000 workers across the UK it found that three in five (60 per cent) employees have experienced mental health issues during the past year due to work issues. A significant percentage of these employees risk serious consequences for disclosing a mental health issue, with 15 per cent of facing dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion. This could mean as many as 1.2 million people negatively affected for disclosing mental health problems.


The report highlights:

  • 84% of employers acknowledge that they have a responsibility towards employees’ mental health
  • Only 24% of managers have received any form of training in handling mental health issues
  • Three quarters of employees affected decide not to disclose their problems to anyone at work
  • Only 11% of UK workers feel they are able to discuss their condition with their manager
  • 50% of line managers would like to receive formal training relating to mental health issues
  • 35% of managers report not having any workplace facilities or services to support employee mental health and wellbeing


A study by the CIPD, highlighted that stress is now the major cause of long-term absences from the workplace.


Young vs Old


It is the older generation of workers who are least likely to be formally diagnosed with a mental health condition but, if they are, they are more comfortable discussing the issue with their managers than their younger counterparts, with only ⅓ of 18-29 year-olds willing to do this.


Mental health and discrimination


Under the Equality Act 2010 some forms of mental ill health may be classed as a disability if they have ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’


It is unlawful, under The Act, for any employer to treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason in relation to their disability without being justified. Some forms of mental illness – such as dementia, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia – are classed as a disability and need to be covered in an employer’s equality policies.


What can employers do to manage their employees’ mental health?


  • Spot the signs: sporadic short-term absences, bullying/aggressive behaviour, low engagement/productivity etc
  • Make reasonable adjustments to the working environment
  • Create a culture in which employees are able to discuss their issues
  • Promote awareness
  • Provide training for relevant managers


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