Department of Health and Social Care
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Employers urged to take 3 steps to improve mental health

How mental health will be treated the same as other health problems

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Care Services Minister Paul Burstow will today call upon employers to take three simple steps to improve the mental health of their staff, and will issue a call to everyone in society to play their part in reducing stigma.

Mental ill-health, such as depression and anxiety, costs British businesses over £1000 per employee every year, or almost £30 billion across theUKeconomy.  This is mostly in lost production through staff being off work or underperforming at work. The wider economic costs of mental illness inEnglandhave been estimated at £105.2 billion each year. This includes direct costs of services, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of life.

Right now, one worker in six has a mental health problem – almost 5 million of Britain’s 29 million workers. To improve the health of employees and reduce unnecessary costs to businesses in lost productivity, managers and colleagues can all make a difference with these three simple steps:

1)     Make this year the Time to Change: Sign your company up to the Time to Change campaign to end mental health discrimination. By signing up, you make a public commitment from the top of the organisation to the bottom, send a strong message to employees, and get expert support from Time to Change in dealing with mental health issues at work.

2)     Get some ‘First Aid’ training in mental health: Most companies have an employee trained in first aid. But mental ill health is the most prevalent cause of illness among people of working age. Appointing someone as a mental health expert or training a number of people in awareness would make a huge difference. Training is available from a variety of organisations.

3)     Call for help: the Health for Work Adviceline in England can be accessed on 0800 0 77 88 44 and It is designed to support employers and employees in small and medium sized businesses, by providing free-to-use early and easy access to professional occupational health and well-being advice to help employees remain in or return to work after a period of ill health.

A 2010 survey found that 72% of workplaces still had no formal mental health policy, and 23% of managers were unable to name a single mental health condition. By following these simple tips, and making information available to employees,  managers can take steps to support their team.

BT has reported that its mental wellbeing strategy has led to a reduction of 30% in mental health-related sickness absence, and a return to work rate of 75% for people absent for more than six months.

The call to action comes as the Deputy Prime Minister and Care Services Minister set out plans for improving mental health and stigma aimed for the first time at employers, schools, local councils, housing organisations and voluntary groups as well as more traditional organisations in the health and care sector.

Five of theUK’s five leading mental health organisations – Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Turning Point, Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network – have worked in partnership with the government to draw up the plans.

Speaking today at a reception to launch the plans which will bring together front line mental health workers, charities, organisations and academics working to improve the nation’s mental health, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg will say:

“Today I am calling on every employer large and small to do a mental health stock take. Too many people suffer in silence with mental health issues. Employers are well placed to recognise warning signs and signpost their staff to support.

“70 million working days are lost as a result of mental health issues every year, costing business £1000 every year for each employee. Managing mental health at work well can save around 30 per cent of these costs – businesses cannot afford not to take mental health seriously.

“Companies such as BT, E.On, Deloitte and EDF Energy are already doing fantastic work to support their teams.

“These three simple steps give all employers the support to look after their staff’s mental health and keepBritainworking. “

The ‘Implementation Framework’ sets out what employers, schools, businesses, local councils, housing organisations, voluntary groups and health and care organisations can do to promote good mental health, whether it be NHS clinical commissioning groups appointing mental health leads, schools developing awareness programmes to help staff recognise pupils at risk, or employers supporting the mental health of their workforce.

Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow said:

“Mental health is everyone’s business. It is fundamental to all aspects of life – our physical health, our work, our relationships and to achieving our potential. The impact of poor mental health can be devastating for individuals and their families and also has a major impact across the economy.

“If we are to improve the nation’s wellbeing organisations from across society need to act as catalysts for change in their communities. This framework provides the practical guidance to help make this happen and I am delighted with the support it has from across the mental health sector who have worked so hard on producing this with us.”
The ‘No Health Without Mental Health’ strategy outlined a new emphasis on early intervention and prevention, extending personalised support to 3.2 million people across the country.

The Government has boosted funding for talking therapies by £400m over the next four years to ensure that modern, evidence-based therapies are available to all who need them through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

An extra £22 million for a pioneering programme to give children with mental health problems access to the best available services was announced by the Deputy Prime Minister in February this year.

£16 million of government funding was also committed for the longstanding Time to Change campaign to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.

The Coalition is clear that mental health must be treated as seriously as physical health, and has already enshrined this in law in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The plans published today will help the NHS put this principle into practice in the reformed health system.

The framework is supported by the NHS Commissioning Board and Public Health England, and sets out how mental health will be embedded in the reformed health and care system.

Progress will be measured via a new Mental Health Dashboard. This will bring together the most relevant measures from the three Outcomes Frameworks and elsewhere, and map them against the aims of the Government’s Mental Health Strategy.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness said:
“This is such a valuable piece of work because it takes the overall aims and ambitions outlined in the mental health strategy and translates them into workable, practical actions for the front line. This implementation plan will help ensure that the Strategy is not simply a list of aspirations, but is followed through with concrete changes, which will directly improve the lives of people affected by mental illness.”

Sean Duggan, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health:
“The mental health strategy points to a clear need for a shift towards intervening early when people first experience mental ill health, for action to reduce inequalities in physical and mental health and for support to those with mental health conditions to achieve recovery on their own terms. The framework gives organisations across the country a clear message about where to start in making the major changes we need to see to improve the life chances of people facing and living with mental ill health.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, said:
“The Health and Social Care Act has enshrined in law the duty to give mental health a fair deal, and grant it the same importance as physical health. Given the tough economic climate we know that now more than ever people need support to look after their mental health; last year calls to Mind’s Infoline increased by 18 per cent and our local Minds helped over 250,000 people.
“We are delighted to see the launch of the Mental Health Implementation Framework, which we have all worked hard on to co-produce. Last year’s mental health strategy was very welcome and we look forward to using the implementation framework and working with a range of organisations to ensure that it is brought to life.”

Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive of Turning Point said:

“This framework shows what we can do when we work together. Mental health affects everyone and everyone has a part to play in ensuring co-production doesn’t stop with the publication of the framework. I hope that organisations, communities and individuals use the framework’s recommendations to improve support for people affected by mental health and associated complex needs, and to deliver real change on the ground, in our schools, workplaces and health service.”

Paddy Cooney, Interim Director of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network,  said:

“Mental ill health affects everybody, which is why the only way to make improvements in mental health services is to involve everybody who will play a part in delivering the radical step-change required. We are proud that the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network has been central in developing this Implementation Framework, which helps define the route we should be taking, step-by-step, to improve mental health services, including providing the best quality care for all individuals who are touched by mental ill health.

“The dashboard will give mental health service providers an at-a-glance guide to the progress they are making along the route of improvement. The Mental Health Network will be working closely with the Department of Health to ensure the dashboard’s measures give maximum help to service providers and help them make improvements which are important to service users.”


For further information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5317

The Mental Health Implementation Framework can be found at

A variety of organisations offer training for employers on mental health, including:

  • Mental Health First Aid, which aims to increase the mental health literacy of the whole population, aiming to train one in every ten adults in England-
  • The charity Mind also provides a free online, resource bank of information for employers and bespoke in-house training. Information on these and other resources can be found at
  • Centre for Mental Health provides workplace training which gives line managers a basic knowledge and skills in first responses to depression and anxiety in the workplace. This can be found at

The Health and Safety Executive have a set of free information to help managers do this – it’s called Management Standards.

Companies can join the Responsibility Deal Health at Work Network, and sign up to pledges to improve the health and wellbeing – including mental health and wellbeing – of staff.


At least one in four people experience a mental health problem at some point in their life and mental ill-health represents up to 23 per cent of the total burden of ill health in theUK- the largest single cause of illness.

Half of those with mental health problems first experience symptoms before the age of 14 and three-quarters before their mid twenties.

Depression is also the most common mental health problem in people aged over 65, with 13-16 per cent having sufficiently severe depression to require treatment.

Case studies:

BT – three-pronged approach

  • BT take a strategic approach to Health, Safety and Wellbeing and have developed a three-tiered mental health framework as part of this.
  • Level one focuses on promoting employee wellbeing and preventing mental distress, for example through tips on the intranet and management training around softer skills.
  • Level two is an initiative to identify distress and intervene early to prevent it from escalating, through an online stress risk assessment for employees and companion training for line managers about how to respond to people’s results.
  • Level three includes a range of support and treatments for people experiencing mental health problems. Employees are encouraged to work with their line manager to produce an ‘advance directive’, to identify early warning signs and establish a plan of action for if they become distressed.
  • BT’s focused approach has proved to be very successful, with one line of business where a more specific mental health policy was implemented seeing stress and anxiety sick leave fall by 24%.
  • A new development has been the launch of a cognitive behavioural therapy service for staff experiencing mild-to-moderate mental health problems that do not need to have been diagnosed by a doctor. Line managers can refer employees to occupational health, who can then decide whether CBT would be appropriate and, if so, what type. This has been used by around 200 people and satisfaction rates have been very high.

Deloitte – mental health champions

  • Deloitte has nine mental health champions at Partner level, who employees can approach confidentially, outside of line management structures, if they have a mental health problem or concern.
  • All the champions have had awareness training to give them a basic understanding of mental health, as well as the support that is available through the firm.
  • The champions are also available to give advice to managers about facilitating conversations with staff who they suspect are experiencing mental ill health.
  • Some 50+ people across the firm have sought help from the champions so far.

 Val Stevenson, HR Director at Deloitte, said: “Supporting individuals with mental problems is really important to Deloitte and the only way to do it effectively is to create an environment where people feel safe talking about their experiences. Setting up our Mental Health Champions at partnership level sends a clear signal from the top that individuals can be open about their mental health and access support at an early stage. We have seen lower absence rates and strong staff engagement, so it has direct business benefits as well as being the right thing to do for our people.”

EDF Energy – supporting staff


A workplace audit showed that the company was losing around £1.4m in productivity each year as a result of mental ill health among its employees.

  • As part of its employee support programme, the company offered psychological support (CBT) to employees and trained over 2,000 managers to recognise psychological ill health among staff and to minimise its effects.
  • This resulted in an improvement in productivity which saved the organisation approximately £228,000 per year. Job satisfaction rose from 36 to 68 per cent.


  • Ran a campaign in 2010 to reduce stigma in the workplace, reduce the risk of work related mental health issues, provide mental health education to line managers and increase support for staff experiencing mental health problems. 
  • Activity included:
    • Head Shed Roadshow within different office sites
    • Handbook and intranet site with tools enabling individuals to manage their own mental health
    • E learning package for managers and colleagues on the promotion and management of mental health
    • Seminars for all on mental health risk assessment, management of change, mental health promotion
    • Employee Assistance Programme including telephone helpline, face to face counselling and computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
    • Fast Track referral for employer funded psychological assessment & treatment
  • The number of new cases of mental health absence reduced by over one quarter since launch of the programme. This has resulted in a demonstrable cost saving to the organisation. 


The mental health charity, provides support, advice, resources and training for employers to help them improve mental health in the workplace, through its Taking Care of Business campaign. The charity produces an employers’ guide with advice on evaluating how mentally healthy a workplace is and how to tackle the causes of mental health problems. There are case studies of what other companies are doing and sign posts for further help. In partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses the charity has also created a guide for small businesses with advice on managing mental health and supporting staff.

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