Mental Health and the Workplace: a UK Call to Action

Employee well-being is essential to employers and society

Prepare to be shocked by the statistics provided in a new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report on UK workers’ mental health and the costs to employers and society. The report states the UK spends “about £70 billion a year, or roughly 4.5% of GDP in lost productivity at work, [on] benefit payments and health care expenditure.” Disorders such as anxiety and depression affect approximately one million claimants in the UK who receive support through the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or other working-age benefits. More worrying is the increased risk of further unemployment, which could exacerbate the disorder and result in those affected dropping below the poverty line.

The media has cited the UK’s long working hours compared to its EU neighbours and linked long hours and employee stress to mental disorders. Both employers and health care providers have a significant role to play in addressing mental health issues before they spiral out of control. Employers should keep an eye on staff performance and wellness. If an employee exhibits any mental health issues, it is imperative to address the matter when it arises because there will be a greater chance of preventing the employee’s health from deteriorating.

The Health and Work Service (formally the health and work assessment and advisory service), as recommended by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sickness absence review, is due to commence in 2014. The service will provide advice and support to employers who have staff members with sickness absence over 4 weeks in duration. The service will also be available to GPs and employees offering them a bespoke return to work plan.

The OECD acknowledges that recent “spending cuts can worsen the medium and long-term fiscal and social costs” for the UK. To remedy the costs of mental health disorders on workplaces, the OECD has some recommendations:

  • Ensure the new Health and Work Service policy (announced in 2014) is implemented across the board and with a strong focus on those still in work;
  • Increase attention to mental health and increase resources to ensure better employment outcomes for those with mental health issues;
  • Build on integrated health and employment interventions; and
  • Expand access to psychological therapies for those with a common mental disorder.

If you are still unsure about how mental health issues affect your business’s bottom line, try the Workplace Wellbeing Tool to work out the costs of poor employee health to the organisation. The tool can also help create a business case for taking action. Employers needing further assistance to address stress-related or mental health issues in the workplace should try the following reliable resources:

Institute members are encouraged to use the BusinessHR resources, located on the Institute’s home page under Information Services, for FREE support and resources for employers, managers and supervisors.

For further information about the OECD report, visit OECD Report or contact Shruti Singh, the author of the report (tel. + 331 4524 1948) or Spencer Wilson from OECD’s Media division (tel. + 331 4524 8118). For a copy of the report, journalists should contact


Author: Institute of Hospitality

Established in 1938, the Institute is the international professional membership body for managers and aspiring managers who work or study in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries. We help more than 10,000 hospitality professionals in 100 countries grow their knowledge, professional profile and expertise offering a wide range of high quality membership services such as targeted and regular industry networking events, hospitality qualifications and extensive online quality resources such as free management guides, Hospitality magazine, webinars, ebooks and ejournals. To learn more about our many member benefits, view our website or email