Employers are being encouraged to be more proactive after 300,000 people lost their jobs last year having wrestled long-term mental health conditions.

'Thriving at Work', an independent new report commissioned by the Government, makes 40 recommendations over how organisations could support employees better.

The reviewers, led by Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer, have called on all employers, regardless of size or industry, to adopt six ‘mental health core standards’ that lay the basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health.

These cover mental health at work plans, mental health awareness for employees, line management responsibilities and routine monitoring of staff mental health and wellbeing.

Still taboo?

Large employers and the public sector are expected to go further and demonstrate best practice through external reporting and "designated leadership responsibility".

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We found that in many workplaces, mental health is still a taboo subject and that opportunities are missed to prevent poor mental health and ensure employees who may be struggling get the support they need."

James Tringham, who has bipolar disorder and has worked at Aviva, who contributed to the inquiry, since 2010, said: “Aviva have been brilliant in supporting me to manage my mental health at work, and have given me my confidence back."

"There’s an understanding, which means little things like adjusting my workload when I’m feeling on the low side can really help."

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said: “We welcome, on behalf of employers in the NHS, the confirmation through the evidence in the report that addressing mental health issues in the workplace is not only the morally right thing to do, but also enhances the performance of organisations."

Nicola Neath, Chair of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapists' Workplace Division said: “While the measures in the report are useful and practical, there is nothing new, or radically different. Unfortunately, awareness alone is not good enough. If awareness is raised it has to be matched with provision and support both within and external to organisations." 

"The BACP believe that it’s vital to ensure that employees, as well as having support systems at work, have access to people that they can talk to outside of the workplace. Access to EAP [employee assistant programmes] and in-house counselling schemes is often much quicker than access to primary care mental health services and our members working in these provide a vital (often lifesaving) support service that would otherwise fall on the burden of public services." 

"Our member’s services have faced cuts but at the same time a growing demand." We [need] continued support from the Government to help organisations offer access where there is none and protect counselling services and EAP services [including] continuing to allow tax relief for EAPs."