Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

October 26, 2017

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New report shows the real cost of mental ill health at work

A new report published this week by the Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health,  stresses that ‘the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work.’

It points out that:

  • while there are more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before, 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions
  • behind this, our analysis shows that around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.

The review includes a detailed analysis that explores the significant cost of poor mental health to UK businesses and the economy as a whole. Poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.

At a time when there is a national focus on productivity the inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of both employers and Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health.

mental ill health at work head image

Importantly, it sets out what employers can do to better support all employees, including those with mental health problems to remain in and thrive through work. It has been undertaken by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer.

Key findings

Key findings from the research suggest that:

  • there is a large annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion (with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work) with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover
  • the cost of poor mental health to Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion4. This includes costs in providing benefits, falls in tax revenue and costs to the NHS
  • the cost of poor mental health to the economy as a whole is more than both of those together from lost output, at between £74 billion and £99 billion per year.

The review stresses that ‘’it is massively in the interest of both employers and Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health. The UK can ill-afford the productivity cost of this poor mental health.’

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.


A significant recommendation is that all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt six ‘mental health core standards’ that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health, namely:

  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 your employees with good working conditions
  5. Promote effective people management
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

The report details a vision for the future, which aims for the following in ten years’ time:

• Employees in all types of employment 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 illhealth 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;

• All of these measures result in dramatically reducing 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.

The review also details how large employers and the public sector can develop these standards further through a set of ‘mental health enhanced standards’. The review also makes a series of recommendations to government and other bodies.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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