Introducing the the Mental Health at Work Commitment
Senior Content Officer, Mental Health at Work
Mental health is a pressing issue for employers all over the UK. Research shows that 300,000 people lose their jobs every year because of a long-term mental health problem (), that only 51% feel comfortable talking about mental health issues at work ( ), and that four in ten (39%) employees say work has contributed to their mental health problems over the last 12 months ( ).
And, when people are experiencing mental health issues but are not given the right support, their productivity suffers – missed work days, difficulty concentrating or even resignation is a possible outcome. These factors add up to an annual cost of up to £99 billion per year for the economy – with £42 billion of that a direct cost to employers.
It's clear a change of direction is needed.
Worryingly, previous initiatives to try to tackle mental health problems have had little impact. It’s clear a change of direction is needed.
But we know that work can be a positive influence on people’s mental health. That’s why we’re proud to introduce a new Mental Health at Work Commitment, developed with the Thriving at Work Leadership Council and members of the Business in the Community Wellbeing Leadership Team, a group of industry leaders and experts with an interest in mental health at work.
What’s in the Mental Health at Work Commitment?
- Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity
If you want to make a long-term difference to employee wellbeing, single interventions aren’t enough. You need a wide-ranging plan.
- Proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes
What’s expected of your people? And where, when and how are they expected to do it? Nobody’s work is just a set of actions in a vacuum; we’re all affected by the behaviours, plans and environment around us. Thought about properly, these things can be a positive force for wellbeing.
- Promote an open culture around mental health
By opening up conversations about mental health, and fostering a culture where employees feel they can seek support if they’re struggling, employers can play an integral role in keeping staff well.
- Increase organisational confidence and capability
You never know when or where an opportunity to make a change, a request for help or a trigger for a conversation might spring up. So, people at all levels of an organisation have a role to play—and employers need to support them all in fulfilling it.
- Provide mental health tools and support
One of the easiest ways to support employees is to make sure people are aware of the help, tools and services available to them. But it’s not just about signposting; leaders and managers should actively promote their use.
- Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
An organisation’s staff team is one of its most important assets, so factors like wellbeing, engagement and retention are vital indicators of a company’s performance.
Who’s behind it?
The Thriving at Work Leadership Council was brought together after a 2017 review into workplace mental health, which was led by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Mind’s CEO Paul Farmer. In October 2017 their Thriving at Work report was published. It called for the government to invite leaders from a variety of organisations to join a Leadership Council to maintain momentum built up by the review.
“The Mental Health at Work Commitment is the first of its kind,” explains Fiona Cannon OBE, Group Responsible Business, Sustainability and Inclusion Director at Lloyds Banking Group. “It is bringing together the actions we know make a material difference on employee mental health, into one clear set of standards which UK employers like Lloyds Banking Group can follow.”
It was important to ensure the voices of the UK’s 5.7 million small and medium employers were considered.
Both the Leadership Council and Business in the Community Wellbeing Leadership Team is made up of employers, leading industry bodies and respected experts, all brought together with the aim of improving mental health at work. Employers come from a wide range of industries and sectors, and include recognisable names such as Unilever, National Grid, Deloitte, Costain, Mace Construction, Lloyds Banking Group, Bupa, and EY.
It was also really important to ensure the voices of the UK’s 5.7 million small and medium employers were considered. One such organisation in the Council is Roots HR, a human resources consultancy based in Kidderminster.
They are joined by public sector organisations, such as NHS Improvement and, and charity sector employers including and , which has 460 membership organisations. Some notable membership bodies adding to the discussion are the CBI, the and the (IOD). In total, more than 30 organisations are taking part.
Every organisation is different; it is up to you how you implement the standards.
The Leadership Council are asking employers to make a commitment to embedding these standards into their organisation, but they are not going to be prescriptive about how you do this. They understand every organisation and industry is different, so it is up to you how you implement the standards – they want to support employers to develop a comprehensive approach to mental health in a way that works for them.
It is hoped that this collaboration will mark a step change in how we approach mental health. It will encourage employers, trade bodies and other stakeholders to work together in a more joined-up approach, tackling the causes of poor mental health and supporting those who need help at work in the most effective ways possible.