For smaller employers, in particular, who may simply be struggling to keep their business afloat, it can be difficult to appreciate the importance of spending time and resources on providing mental health support for their employees. However, when you look at some of the key facts and figures, they make a strong business case for why employers of all sizes should take this matter seriously.



According to the Centre for Mental Health (CMH) about one in six people will experience mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and unmanageable stress. In the past five years, employers have cited stress as the number one reason given by employees who take time off work. So mental health is very clearly an important issue for every organisation in the UK.

CMH research provides tangible evidence of the detrimental effect that poor mental health has on productivity:

• Mental ill health is responsible for a total of 72 million working days lost (12.7% of all sickness absence days) each year
• Every year it costs business £1,300 per employee whose mental health needs are unsupported
• It is estimated that the total cost to UK employers is £34.9 billion each year.

NB: Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion.

(Adapted from Centre for Mental Health, 2017: Mental health at work: The business costs ten years on)

The cost to business of poor mental health is not just related to increased sickness absence levels. Employees who are struggling with their mental health may come to work when they are unwell. Infact, CIPD research shows that 86% of HR professionals had observed such ‘presenteeism’ in their organisation (CIPD 2018). Almost two-thirds also reported ‘leaveism’, i.e. people using their annual leave to catch up on work. Feeling the need to turn up to work when unwell, or using annual leave to catch up on work can potentially make someone’s condition worse and is likely to have a negative impact on performance. The annual cost to employers of absence due to mental health-related presenteeism is higher than the cost of absence, estimated at between £17 billion and £26 billion in the UK (Stevenson and Farmer 2017). This highlights that managing and supporting people experiencing poor mental health in the workplace is just as important as managing their absence and supporting their return to work.

Minimising the risk of losing valued employees is another strong motivator for employers to invest in managing mental health at work. The evidence shows that those with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition,– amounting to around 300,000 dropping out of the labour market annually (Stevenson and Farmer 2017). The average cost of recruiting new staff is substantial, ranging from £6,000 for senior managers and directors to £2,000 for other staff – which does not include the investment in training and development that is lost when employees leave (CIPD 2017).

Employers who fail to manage mental health at work effectively also risk financial losses, as well as damage to their reputation and employer brand, as a result of costly and potentially high-profile litigation, through personal injury claims, unfair dismissal or discrimination claims, or as a result of breach of contract. Conversely, embracing positive management of staff mental well-being can be part of a comprehensive corporate responsibility agenda, which will enhance the employer’s reputation and make them more attractive to work for.

As well as considering how to avoid the negative consequences of poor mental health, it is also important that employers recognise that there are a range of positive business reasons for supporting staff mental health. PricewaterhouseCoopers research, points to ‘a wealth of evidence’ suggesting a positive link between the introduction of wellness programmes in the workplace and improved business key performance indicators.

The CIPD’s Health and well-being at work 2019 survey identified the top three benefits of employers increasing their focus on employee well-being:

• better employee morale and engagement
• a healthier and more inclusive culture
• lower sickness absence.

Research shows that health and wellbeing should not be treated as an ‘add-on’ or something ‘nice-to-have’ by organisations – if employers place employee well-being at the centre of their business and view it as the vital source of value creation, there can be significant rewards for all concerned.

People Based Solutions offers support to our customers on a wide range of workplace health and wellbeing issues, including providing guidance on undertaking stress risk assessments, conducting employee engagement surveys, or making reasonable adjustments for employees with mental health conditions. If you would like to know more about how we can help your organisation, click here to visit our website, or e-mail us:

People Based HR