Last week saw the release of the report “Thriving at work”, The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health in the workplace. It came out with a great fanfare having been commissioned by the Prime Minister in January 2017.
The report’s authors have a vision that they believe is realistic within a 10 year time frame to ensure that employers create the right environment for employees with mental health who require support.
It is interesting that even in writing an article I am struggling to find the right terminology, and that is one of the areas we need to address as employers, colleagues, friends and family. As one expert stated on the release of the report “we all have mental health”. It seems that the use of “struggling” is a helpful term when working with someone who is not at their very best in relation to their mental health at any given time, and by the use of such a term, it encourages us to move towards support rather than derision.
The report claims that up to 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems have to leave their jobs each year. This relates to the economy losing up to £99bn each year due to poor mental health and a cost to employers of £42bn.
There are 40 recommendations in the report that include:
- all employers should adopt certain mental health core standards, set out in the report;
- public sector, and private sector employers with over 500 employees, should take additional steps, again set out in the report;
- employers should be encouraged by legislation to report publicly on their workforce's mental health;
- professional bodies should implement training and support measures for their employer members;
- Creating a mental health at work plan;
- Building mental health awareness by making information and support accessible;
- Encouraging open conversations;
- Providing good working conditions and ensuring that employees have a healthy work-life balance;
- Promoting effective people management, with line managers holding regular conversations about health and well-being with their staff;
- Routinely monitoring employee mental health
The report’s authors believe that within 10 years there will have been tangible change as a result of this report, and the government is said to be seriously contemplating legislative changes alongside their own employers such as the NHS and Civil Service following the recommendations. Those changes are:
- Employees in all types of employment will 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 ill-health 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;
- We dramatically reduce 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 Prime Minister said:
"It is only by making this an everyday concern for everyone that we change the way we see mental illness, so that striving to improve your mental health - whether at work or at home - is seen as just as positive as improving our physical well-being."
The report follows a significant increase in media awareness of mental health, alongside NHS pledges to increase services for those in the community who require clinical assistance with their mental health.
Employers should be taking time to read the recommendations ahead of any legislative changes to celebrate what they are already doing well, and identifying areas for improvement within their own businesses. There is a moral, social and financial imperative according to the report to ensure this is an area of employee wellbeing that we take seriously.