13 September 2018 | By Sarah Newton MP Community

Making mental health a priority makes good business sense

Tackling mental health in the workplace can be daunting, says Minister for Disabled People Sarah Newton, but support is available 

An estimated 300,000 people lose their job every year because of a mental health problem. Many might have remained in employment had they been given the right support.

Earlier this week I spoke at a CBI event to welcome the launch of Front of Mind, its new good practice guidance which helps employers improve health and wellbeing in the workplace.

People with mental health conditions can make a valuable contribution wherever they work. We need real cultural change across the country to prevent valued colleagues leaving a job they love because of mental health problems.

For employers this can feel daunting. Mental health charity Mind found that while employers want to make mental health a priority, a third don’t know where to go for information or guidance.

That’s exactly why practical resources like Front of Mind are so important. Highlighting examples from UK employers that are already leading the way, the guidance shows that successful businesses are taking key three steps: prioritising health and wellbeing from the top, targeting action towards early interventions and embedding good health and wellbeing in workplace culture.

The business case

Not only does Front of Mind offer practical tips for employers, it also demonstrates the business case for making progress on workplace mental health.

The impact of mental health issues costs UK employers between £33bn and £42bn every year. Clearly, making mental health a priority in your workplace is not just the right thing to do – it also makes good business sense.

We don’t expect employers to do this on their own. Government has an important role to play in supporting people with a mental health condition. We’ve made good progress, with a range of support on offer. Spending on mental health increased to a record £11.86bn last year, with a further investment of £1bn by 2020/21.

On employment support, we’re investing £115m in partnership with the NHS, more than doubling the number of Employment Advisers in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Services. Our new Work and Health Programme is investing £500m in tailored employment support, helping disabled people and those with health conditions into a job. And our Access to Work scheme has a specialised mental health support service, which has supported over 12,000 people. More than 90 per cent of people who have used the service were still in their job after six months.

I want to encourage senior managers and business leaders to make a real, tangible commitment to improving workplace culture around mental health. This isn’t an issue for other businesses to deal with, or something we can leave HR to worry about. The leaders of any organisation are pivotal in shaping its culture, and exemplary behaviour has to start at the top.

My vision is of a society where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and no one loses their job because of poor mental health. It’s now time for every leader in every sector to take responsibility for creating an environment in which people feel able to talk about their mental health condition and get the help they need to thrive at work.

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