With a sixth of workers experiencing a mental health problem at any one time, and with stress, anxiety and depression thought to be responsible for nearly half of all working days lost in Britain, the relationship between mental health and the workplace is complex and costly.

New research by Deloitte and Mind estimates the cost of poor mental health among employees’ costs UK employers between £42bn and £45bn each year; made up of absence costs of around £7bn, presenteeism costs ranging from about £27bn to £29bn and turnover costs of around £9bn.

This represents an increase of about 6bn and 16% on the figures in their 2017 report ‘Mental health and employers: The case for investment’.

But, as the report states, it’s not all bad news.

There is now greater support for employees, particularly in large organisations, and there has been greater social awareness of mental health issues through several high-profile campaigns. This has led to a reduction in the level of stigma at work associated with mental health issues. Added to this, their 2020 report supports the case for investment in improving workplace mental health, with a return of £5 for every £1 spent my employers.

Kris Ambler, BACP Workforce Lead, said: “The rising prevalence of poor mental health at work suggests employers need to do more. The report is a bit of a mixed bag, on one hand the return on investment (ROI) analyses provide employers with a strong incentive to invest, but the report does highlight some concerns, such as the rise of leavism and young professionals being twice as likely to suffer from depression as the average worker.”

Andrew Kinder, BACP Board Member, said the report “further highlights the importance of addressing poor mental health at work, but identifies a need for more in-depth, ‘gold standard’ research to inform analyses”.

He recognises the challenges of measuring the value of workplace mental health interventions, but points to the work the Employee Assistance Providers Association (EAPA) has done in this area.

“EAPA commissioned the development of an ROI calculator which can help businesses make better informed investment decisions," he said.

BACP and EAPA recently commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to look at the value of workplace counselling, which included an up-to-date review of relevant literature and consultation with industry experts. The report is currently being finalised and we look forward to sharing the key messages.

Kris says that ROI only provides part of the picture.

“An organisation that invests in developing a wider culture of wellbeing will see better returns," he said. "When making investment decisions businesses need to think beyond single interventions and instead look at the whole system."

BACP’s membership includes a large number of workplace counselling providers, including EAPs and on-site provision, and is, therefore, ideally placed to inform future research of this kind. We, alongside our strategic partners, welcome the opportunity to work with organisations, including Deloitte, to better inform and build the evidence base.

For more information about our work with employers contact Kris Ambler, BACP Workforce Lead.