At least three in ten employees suffer from mental health problems (ranging from short-term depression to chronic conditions), costing businesses up to £1,000 per employee each year. Stress at work, a key driver of long-term absence, has more than doubled since the 1990s, with one in five workers having taken a day off sick for stress. Despite this, 15 million workers don’t currently have access to mental health support at work.

To tackle this challenge, BACP believes that all employees should have access to workplace counselling either in-house or through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), providing much needed support while bringing benefits to British businesses, as well as delivering savings to the public purse. Currently around 13 million employees have access to workplace counselling and we believe Government has a role to play in supporting the remaining 50% to get access to mental health support at work. By treating poor mental health, reducing lost productivity and helping people return to work, workplace counselling can produce multiple benefits for Government, businesses and employees too.

A typical annual EAP subscription cost can be as little as £6 per employee (depending on the range, variety and cost of services selected). Workplace counsellors employed within in-house services can often offer additional skills, including stress management training, coaching, mediation and post-trauma support. Cost benefit studies of the economic benefit of workplace counselling also report that it at least covers its costs, with some finding a substantial positive cost benefit. Furthermore, research demonstrates that counselling can reduce sickness absence rates by over 25%.

Employees with EAP provision are accepted for treatment in an average of nine days compared with the average waiting time on the NHS of 64 days. In addition, workplace counselling has treatment completion rates of around 80% and improvement and recovery rates of 70%. Workplace counselling is also likely to offer a choice of time, location and type of therapy – all of which are associated with better recovery rates.

With a third of our adult lives spent at work it's time to invest in the mental health and wellbeing of the UK's workers. For more information read our Improving mental health in the workplace briefing.