Why mental health at work matters

14 April 2016

A new initiative hopes to highlight the importance of making mental health at work a priority.

counsellor supporting an employee

Ninety-one million working days a year are lost to mental ill health, but only one in 10 British companies have an official policy on mental health1. Now mental health charity Mind, in partnership with the Mayor of London, has launched a new initiative to encourage employers to prioritise mental health at work. The campaign has asked some of the UK’s senior business leaders to give their perspectives on how they have sought to change the way mental health is viewed in their companies.

The cost of mental ill-health

Mental ill health among the workforce costs British industry an estimated £11.8 billion annually according to a Mental Health in the Workplace paper by charity The Mental Health Foundation1. One in 10 people have resigned due to stress, and one in four have considered it2. This is why it is essential that mental ill health be treated as seriously as physical illness, something that is key to supporting people, high-performance cultures and overall business results.

What we can learn from business leaders

Many of the UK’s business leaders are at the forefront of change and they offer their advice.


Caroline Wayman, Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service:

  • Treat staff’s mental health as a part of their overall wellbeing and treat it the same as physical health.
  • Encourage healthy lifestyles – the Financial Ombudsman Service has a gym and the cafes provide fresh and healthy food options and quiet rooms, which allow people space to breathe.

Tony Cates Partner, EMA and UK Head of Audit at KPMG:

  • Have a strategy that is specifically about supporting a safe and accepting culture.
  • Encourage employees at senior level to come forward as role models who can draw on their own lived experience to communicate with colleagues.

Camilla Harrisson, Chief Executive at Anomaly:

  • Ensure that absenteeism for illness is always referred to as absence for physical or mental ill health.
  • Embody the behaviour we want to promote and be open, honest, understanding, active and supportive around the issue.

Kevin Cahill, Chief Executive at Comic Relief:

  • Comic Relief has an active group of Wellbeing Champions who run events through the year, from a monthly board games night to Wednesday Walks to encourage employees to get some fresh air on their lunch break3.

Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at Bupa UK:

  • Remove barriers to treatment – for example, for corporate or SME customers, Bupa no longer requires GP referral for access to mental health talking therapies4.
  • Embrace digital tools to support a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, initiatives such as Bupa Boost5 can drive employee engagement and raise awareness in preventative health activity.

No business can afford to ignore mental ill-health in the workplace. Take the lead with advice from some of the UK’s largest companies, who are implementing policies to combat mental ill health in the workplace.

Speak to our small business team to find out more.

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