Richard Cree 27 Oct 2017 09:54am

Poor mental health approach costs the UK £99bn

Failure to deal properly with workplace mental health may be costing the UK economy as much as £99bn a year, through a combination of lost productivity, lower tax receipts and extra benefits payments

The numbers are revealed today in Thriving at work: The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers, which was commissioned by the prime minister Theresa May in January. It found that 300,000 people in the UK lose their jobs every year due to poor mental health and estimated that 15% of the workforce has symptoms of an existing mental health condition.

In a move that may affect the accountancy profession – and qualifications in particular – the report recommended that “professional bodies with responsibility for training or accrediting professional qualifications” should include workplace mental health in their training programmes and assessments.

The report urged the government to “consider legislative change to enhance protections for employees with mental health conditions, particularly fluctuating mental health conditions, and clarify the role of employers in providing reasonable adjustments.”

It also recommended changes to the Companies Act to encourage employers to report on workplace mental health issues and suggested the Equality and Human Rights Commission enforce action against employers that discriminated against mental health victims. It suggested that the Health and Safety Executive revise its guidance to highlight employers’ duty to assess and manage work-related mental ill-health.

“The mental health core standards should provide a framework for workplace mental health and we have designed them in a way that they can be tailored to suit a variety of workplaces and be implemented by even the smallest employers,” the report said.

It suggested a six-point set of “core standards” for employers which included producing, implementing and communicating a mental health at work plan; developing mental health awareness among employees; encouraging open conversations about mental health and the support available; providing good working conditions; promoting effective people management; and routinely monitoring employee mental health and well-being.

Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said the report showed that mental health was not just a moral but also a business issue, while Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman, Mike Cherry said it was “a huge challenge” and that the report was right to recognise the differences between big and small businesses when dealing with it.

Kelly Feehan, service director at CABA, the organisation providing support and assistance to chartered accountants, said, "It‘s only by highlighting how big an effect mental ill-health has on our lives and the economy that the way we talk about it and respond to it will change" and added that businesses shouldn’t wait for a government edict to take action.

CABA research showed 68% of employees check work emails while on leave or off sick, leading to burnout and increased stress or anxiety.