Are employers doing enough to support mental health?

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Are employers doing enough to support mental health?

When people are healthy, motivated and focused businesses of all shapes and sizes benefit. We’ve been working with Trade Union members for over 130 years, helping them find great value, high quality insurance. In that time, we have noticed that the smartest employers are the ones that support employees who are suffering mental health problems.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported that during 2018/19, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of lost working days. From these figures alone it’s clear that employees’ mental wellbeing should be high on the list of concerns for employers, but is it and are employers doing enough?


It’s important to note here that employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This includes mental health and well-being. Employees who have a mental health condition may be disabled as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and will therefore be protected from discrimination during employment.


The Stevenson Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review

One definite positive step in the right direction, to ensure that employers were doing enough to support employees’ mental wellbeing, was the publication of the ‘Thriving at Work’ review in 2017.

It highlighted the ‘Core Standards’ that employers should put in place to help improve the mental health of their workplace and enable individuals with mental health conditions to thrive.  

These standards include:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
  • Provide your employees with good working conditions
  • Promote effective people management
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

You can read the report in full and see what guidance it gives:

Employees feel that employers should be doing more

A mid-2018 survey by Westfield Health though highlights that employees feel employers should be doing more. They surveyed a wide range of working adults from across the UK and discovered that a staggering 86% of them believe firms are not doing enough to help them deal with work-related mental health issues.


Interestingly, it’s not just absenteeism, as a result of mental health issues, that could be costing businesses highly. ‘Presenteeism’ (where someone is at work in body, but unable to work to their full capacity) is an issue that is having a significant impact on a wide range of organisations.

The signs are that mental wellbeing is now a top priority

With 2020 being an unusually tough year for many people due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the signs are that a large number of employers are waking up to the importance of mental wellbeing.

Organisations such as Mind and CIPD are highlighting how managers play a fundamental role in supporting people’s wellbeing. In addition to managing absence, they implement all of the policies – such as flexible working – that can make a real difference to the quality of people’s lives at work.

They are encouraging managers to ensure they do some simple things such as:

  • Check in on employees’ health and wellbeing on a regular basis
  • Take into account both personal and work-related situations when it comes to returning to work and work performance
  • Help with access to any health or wellbeing services that they offer


The adoption of modern technology is also highlighted as one of the ways that employers can help employees and managers when it comes to mental wellbeing. According to a study by Dr Antonia Dietmann from HM Courts & Tribunals Service, in which 724 employees used meditation app Headspace five times a week, participants reported they felt less stressed and that they were happier with their job performance. 80% of participants said they’d recommend the app and 60% continued to use it.

The National Health Service (NHS) has a whole page dedicated to the use of mental wellbeing apps that have all been assessed. We’ve highlighted five of them below that are becoming increasingly popular:

  • Headspace: This is a free app, with a paid section for premium content and is used by the likes of Google and Apple. So, it’s well worth checking out to see if your employees will benefit from it before looking at a corporate membership.
  • Insight Timer: used by over 12 million people globally it also has a free section so you can see its value with a premium section available for a cost.
  • Calm: This app helps improve sleep, relaxation and mindfulness and has the most subscribers of any app on the market.
  • 10% Happier: For those who are sceptical about the power of apps, this could be for you and has sections dedicated to the different aspects of a person’s life.



Are employers doing enough to support mental health?

The answer isn’t as easy as you think. Some are, some aren’t. Yet it’s clear from the stats presented by a wide range of organisations that employees’ mental wellbeing should be high on every employer’s radar, whether they are an SME or a large organisation.

Mental health awareness is now at the highest it has ever been, even before the pandemic placed more of a spotlight on it. This is a good thing, as it’s clear employers are recognising that they need to put people and their wellbeing ahead of profits.

About UIA

At UIA we have supported Trade Union members for over 130 years by helping them find great value, high quality insurance. We hope you’ve found this blog both useful and informative whether you are a Trade Union member or not.

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