Employers could save as much as £250,000 a year if they follow new guidance on promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, the NHS spending watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has predicted.
The NICE guidance, published this month, includes a range of recommendations for businesses on how to improve understanding and awareness of mental wellbeing and ensure that there are proper systems in place for assessing and monitoring the mental wellbeing of employees.
The guidance also suggested that occupational health professionals work more to support small and medium sized organisations (SMEs) and micro businesses.
With stress, depression and anxiety currently estimated to cost UK employers about £28.3bn a year, the potential savings for employers from better practice could be significant, said Mike Kelly, NICE’s Public Health Excellence Centre director.
“By following these recommendations an average organisation of 1,000 employees can expect to save an estimated £250,000 a year, due to reduced absenteeism and increased performance,” he said.
“The guidance therefore represents a win-win for employers and their employees and should be seen as a key document for organisations irrespective of their size or sector,” he added.
Yet simple measures, such as performing annual audits of employee wellbeing, remained relatively uncommon, he said.
NICE’s main recommendations for employers were to:
- promote a culture of participation, equality and fairness based on open communication and inclusion
- create an awareness and understanding of mental wellbeing and reduce the potential for discrimination and stigma related to mental health problems
- ensure that systems are in place for assessing and monitoring the mental wellbeing of employees, such as employee attitude surveys, information about absence rates, staff turnover and investment in training and development;
- provide employees with opportunities for flexible working (where practicable)
- strengthen the role of line managers in promoting the mental wellbeing of employees through a supportive leadership style and management practices.
In a separate report, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has said that the NHS should invest more in employment support for people with severe or enduring mental health problems.
Individual placement and support schemes, which help people with such conditions into paid work, would, at a cost of £67m a year in England, be better value for money than continual spending on day and vocational services, which costs around £184m a year, it argued.