The prime minister has launched a new review that will seek to “transform” the treatment of mental health in the workplace.
In a speech delivered to the Charity Commission body, Theresa May announced that the review would be led by mental health campaigner Lord Dennis Stephenson alongside Paul Farmer, head of the charity Mind.
She stated that the two would “work with leading employers and mental health groups to create a new partnership with industry”.
The review came alongside a number of measures designed to improve the treatment of mental health sufferers and “transform” the perception of mental illness in Britain.
May emphasised that providing better support for mental health in the workplace was of great benefit to business owners.
She said: “Mental wellbeing doesn’t just improve the health of employees, it improves their motivation, reduces their absence and drives better productivity too.”
Tom Gaynor, employee benefits director at health insurers MetLife UK, welcomed the review into mental health in the workplace.
“The government’s review will be welcomed by business leaders and marks an important step in recognising and putting action plans into place to remove the stigma around mental health in the workplace,” he said.
Gaynor agreed that supporting the health concerns of employees would be beneficial to staff retention and productivity, pointing to new research from MetLife that found over two-thirds of workers were considering leaving their job within the next 12 months if stress levels didn’t improve.
“It is a vicious circle, with employees suffering if the root cause of their stress is not identified and the stress is left untreated, and with their employers left in a vulnerable situation with the potential loss of a valued employee. It benefits everyone to address stress issues before they become a problem.”
Responding to the announcement of the review, Mark Hamson, a director at Simplyhealth insurers, said that trust and communication between employers and their staff remained the key to better handling of mental health in the workplace.
“This is a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution, and one which promotes open discussion and makes employees feel able to speak candidly about their mental health,” he said in a statement.
Research in 2016 suggested that mental health related issues cost UK firms £26bn every year due to sickness and absence, with some academics suggesting that the cost is likely to be more when considering poor productivity whilst at work.
Government recognition of the challenges of mental health in the workplace will be welcomed by the small business community in particular.
A 2011 mental health summit led by Mind concluded that it was the owners of small companies that faced the greatest challenge in providing effective mental health support for employees, due to limited resources.
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