Report investigates business costs of mental illness

Businesses across Britain are losing £1,000 a year for every person they employ because of mental ill health among their staff, suggests a report published this week by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

The report, ‘Mental Health at Work: Developing the Business Case’, finds that the total cost to UK employers of mental ill health among their staff is nearly £26 billion, equivalent to £1,000 per employee.

The costs are made up of:

* £8.4 billion in sickness absence,
* £2.4 billion to replace staff leaving their jobs,
* around £15 billion in reduced productivity among people still at work but

The report says: “Evidence indicates that the great majority of employers seriously underestimate the prevalence of mental health probelms among their employees.

“Nearly half of those surveyed thought that none of their staff will ever have a mental health problem: in fact the rate is at least one in six at any time.

“Little is known about the importance of mental health problems as a cause of impaired performance while people are at work. The evidence suggests that ‘presenteeism’, as it has now become known, has a significantly larger mipact on worker productivity than absenteeism.

“Presenteeism is particularly important in the case of mental ill health. Among other reasons, this is because workers may be concerned about being labelled by their employers and colleagues. Fearing possible stigma, they may turn up for work though feeling unwell.

“The scale of costs associated with mental health problems in the workforce is considerable. One way of interpreting these figures is as a measure of the potential benefits to be derived from the better management of mental health problems at work, on the logic that a cost saved is a benefit gained.”

The report recommends mental health awareness training to help employers make an early recognition of an employee’s mental health problem, encouraging managers to be more supportive and flexible and ensuring regular contact with staff who are on sick leave because of their mental illness.

* To read ‘Mental Health at Work: Developing the Business Case’, click here.