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Mental health in the workplace is important, say companies, but study finds lack of action

24 June 2022


MOST companies now publicly acknowledge mental health as an important business concern, but many have a long way to go in approaching and managing it in the workplace, a study from the charity investment manager CCLA concludes.

The study assesses and ranks 100 of the UK’s largest employers listed on the London Stock Exchange to produce a benchmark that it hopes will be a catalyst for the industry. It finds that only 34 per cent of these publish formal objectives and targets, and only roughly the same number “signalled a leadership commitment to promoting mental health in the workplace”.

Public CEO advocacy is also broadly lacking, the study says. Three companies — Centrica PLC, Lloyds Banking Group PLC, and Serco Group PLC — were judged to be leading the way on workplace mental-health management and disclosure. “Creating a culture that encourages openness and dialogue on mental health is crucial to eliminating the stigma associated with it,” the study suggests.

Pointing out that only one third of UK companies recognise the link between good work principles and mental health, it suggests that working conditions that provide for healthy, balanced lifestyles and “support people to be themselves at work”, can help prevent new mental-health problems and support those with existing conditions to get on and thrive.

It uses the World Health Organization definition of good mental health: “A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Good work principles include embracing components such as flexible working, fair pay and financial well-being, diversity and inclusion (DEI), recruitment and career progression, and anti-bullying and non-harassment.

The CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark has been designed to encourage employers to be more open about what they are doing to share good practice, encourage others, and be open to investors, customers, and potential staff about their mental-health and well-being credentials.

“The strong correlation between human health and investment returns was thrown into sharp relief during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the study says. “We quickly learned that healthy companies require healthy workers. Yet human health goes beyond a lack of disease: it includes mental health, too. This benchmark is designed to act as a catalyst for change in our industry.”

The benchmark has five tiers, from the leading companies to those just beginning to adopt a formal approach to mental-health management and disclosure. They were assessed against 27 criteria, such as “Do companies have clear management commitments to encouraging a culture of openness on mental health?” and “Do companies support the principles of good work by having a formal commitment to fair play and financial well-being?”

It emphasises the importance of mental-health training of competent managers who are able to oversee the implementation of the policy, and “dedicated individuals who are empowered to become a point of contact for those experiencing mental illness, health or emotional distress, and to nurture a positive influence towards mental health within the organisation”.

The study quotes the latest research by Deloitte, which suggests that employers can expect an average return of £5.30 for every £1 spent on mental-health interventions, gained by reducing the costs associated with absenteeism and staff turnover.

It has the support of the mental-health charity MIND. “Mental health affects every employer,” its chief executive, Paul Farmer, says. “In 2020-2021, we surveyed over 40,000 staff working across 114 organisations taking part in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index.

“Two in five told us their mental health had worsened during the pandemic. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, which can include employees with mental-health problems.

“Investing in staff well-being also makes business sense, as employers who promote good mental health at work are more likely to report higher productivity and morale, as well as reduced sickness absence.”

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