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Government Review: Thriving At Work

The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers

The below information is a combined summary and quotation of the findings from both the Thriving at Work Review and the Government website www.gov.uk

Employers fulfilling their duty of care towards their employees is a broad subject with varying takes on how best to do so. One area of considerable focus has been mental health. In order to assess where organisations can do more, The UK Government has carried out an independent review as part of their Mental Health Reform initiative. Research carried out by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer has been published through both The Department For Work and Pensions, as well as The Department of Health and Social Care to look at mental health from an economic and social perspective.

The Study assumes the position that the correct way to view mental health is that we all have it and we fluctuate between thriving, struggling, and being ill and possibly off work

We need to move to a society where all of us become more aware of our own mental health, other people’s mental health, and how to cope with our own and other people’s mental health when it fluctuates. It is all our responsibilities to make this change and employers are perhaps able to have the greatest impact and scope to make an impact and are the focus of this review.

Thriving at Work sets out:

  1. What employers can do to better support all employees, including those with mental health problems to remain in and thrive through work.
  2. A detailed analysis that explores the significant cost of poor mental health to UK businesses and the economy as a whole
  3. How investing in supporting mental health at work is good for business and productivity.
  4. All employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt 6 ‘mental health core standards’ that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health.

“ Many employers are already creating healthy, inclusive workplaces, but more needs to be done so that employers provide the support needed for employees with mental health conditions.” Prime Minister Theresa May, January 2017

10 Year Vision To Improve Mental Health In The Workplace:

  • 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;

Its through the above that we can 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

This study has led us to conclude that underneath the stigma that surrounds mental health and prevents open discussion on the subject, the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work.

  • 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year
  • Around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.

The human cost is huge, with poor mental health having an impact on the lives of many individuals and those around them. This manifests itself in a variety of ways both at work and at home, and impacts a person’s ability to manage other elements of their personal life. Then there is the ultimate human cost of loss of life through suicide.

With the help of an independent study on the cost to employers commissioned from Deloitte, we have also found:

  • There is a large annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion
  • The cost of poor mental health to Government is between £24 billion and £27 billion
  • The cost of poor mental health to the economy at between £74 billion and £99 billion per year
  • The inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of both employers and Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health.

Deloitte’s analysis of the case studies where investments have been made in improving mental health, show a consistently positive return on investment, which found that a manager mental health training programme could lead to a significant reduction in work-related sickness absence, with an associated return on investment of £9.98 for each pound spent on such training.

How Can This Vision Be Achieved?

A “mental health core standards” – a framework for a set of actions which we believe all organisations in the country are capable of implementing quickly. The 6 cores standards are:

  1. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan;
  2. Develop mental health awareness among employees;
  3. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling;
  4. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development;
  5. Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors;
  6. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

The report also outlines a series of more ambitious ‘enhanced’ standards for employers who can and should do more to lead the way, building on the mental health core standards these are as follows:

  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
  • Demonstrate accountability
  • Improve the disclosure process
  • Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help

Three other factors will help the implementation of these “mental health core and enhanced standards”.

  • Increasing employer transparency. Employer action on mental health is intrinsically measurable.
  • Calling on trade unions, industry groups, professional and regulatory bodies to help with the implementation of these standards.
  • The implementation and use of digital tools and products

The Role Of The Public Sector

The public sector, which employs 5.4 million people, has a huge opportunity to lead the way, particularly the three largest public employers: the National Health Service, Education and the Civil Service.

The Role Of Government

Government can do more to make it simple for employers, through support and online information platforms and joining up existing provisions aimed at employees and employers.

  • Government should consider exploring further the role of incentives and public procurement to drive implementation of the mental health core standards.
  • We also suggest Government sets clearer expectations of employers through legislation, and makes Statutory Sick Pay more flexible
  • There is a significant role for the NHS to support workplace mental health by ensuring support is accessible, high quality and fits around work.
  • Government does more to prevent and end employer practices which contravene employment and equalities legislation

Delivery And Implementation

It is clearly important this is done in a way that creates a self-sustaining and measurable change process, which survives future elections changes in personnel and is visible for future generations.

We recommend that Permanent Secretaries Chief Executives and equivalent senior leaders across the public sector, have a performance objective relating to ensuring the mental wellbeing of all employees, and accountability for adopting the ‘mental health core and enhanced standards’.

We also suggest that so as to achieve leadership across the private, public and voluntary sectors, the Prime Minister sets up a new Mental Health and Employer Leadership Council.

“ Employers have a huge positive role to play in improving the nation's mental health and it also makes perfect business sense to keep our colleagues as mentally fit and productive as possible. I particularly welcome the fact that the review suggests practical steps that large and small businesses can take to start moving forward on this vital topic.” Sir Ian Cheshire, Heads Together

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