Time for employers to “step up to mark” on mental health

26 October 2017

The leading global professional health and safety body today calls on employers to “step up to the mark” and commit to new standards on workplace mental health.

171009 Mental health

A new report into workplace mental health clearly demonstrates the need for increased support for long-term sufferers, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Each year, 300,000 people in the UK with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs, according to the report, called Thriving at Work. The cost to the UK economy of poor mental health is estimated to be up to £99 billion.

The independent review, conducted by Paul Farmer and Dennis Stevenson, makes 40 recommendations and urges employers, no matter what their size or industry, to commit to six core standards on mental health.

IOSH says employers and relevant bodies need to take heed. Earlier this month, it published new research which found that employers need to do more to help employees return to work following absence because of common mental disorders.

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, said: “Employers have a vital role in providing supportive workplaces. It is time for them to step up to the mark on mental health.

“All work needs to be ‘good work’ and effective management benefits individuals, businesses and the economy.

“Everyone can contribute to improving mental health at work and supporting people with problems. Health and safety professionals and professional bodies like IOSH are very keen to help organisations to get it right. IOSH provides lots of free guidance and tools on this.

“Action doesn’t need to be costly. Where there is cost, the report found that average returns far outweigh it, with around £4.20 for every £1 spent.”

The standards cover mental health at work plans, mental health awareness for employees, line management responsibilities and routine monitoring of staff mental health and wellbeing. Large employers and the public sector are expected to go even further, demonstrating best practice through external reporting and designated leadership responsibility.

Other recommendations in the Thriving at Work review include the creation of an online health and wellbeing portal to help employers access the tools and guidance they need; additional support for small and medium enterprises; the use of digital technology as a means to support those working remotely or in the gig economy; changes to legislation to offer better protection for staff with mental health problems; and measures to ensure that workplace mental health is promoted and enhanced through greater transparency and the role of regulators.

Meanwhile, the review makes a number of specific recommendations for Government to support these changes.

To view IOSH’s return to work research, click here. Guidance for employers is also available in its occupational health toolkit.

Notes for editors

IOSH is the Chartered body for health and safety professionals. With over 46,000 members in 120 countries, we’re the world’s largest professional health and safety organisation.

We set standards, and support, develop and connect our members with resources, guidance, events and training. We’re the voice of the profession, and campaign on issues that affect millions of working people.

IOSH was founded in 1945 and is a registered charity with international NGO status.

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