Independent review calls on employers to make mental health a priority

An independent review into mental health in the workplace, commissioned by the Government in January 2017, published its comprehensive report today. It calls for workplace mental health to now be a priority for organisations across the UK.

The Thriving at work: Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers report, which also takes into account the recent Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, highlights that the UK is facing a significant challenge in respect of mental health at work which is leading to a high human cost in terms of poor mental health and suicide. In addition, the report states that poor mental health has impacts for employers, the Government and the economy as a whole, with 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition losing their jobs every year.

The report sets out its vision which is to see changes, implemented through a 10 year plan, which will result in:

  • Employees in all types of employment having good work which contributes positively to their mental health, society and the economy;
  • Everyone having the knowledge, tools and confidence to understand and look after their own mental health, and the mental health of others;
  • All organisations, whatever their size, being equipped with the awareness and tools to address, and prevent, mental ill-health caused or worsened by work, and to support individuals with a mental health condition to thrive in the organisation with awareness of how to get access to timely help.

To achieve this, the report sets out a framework for organisations to implement quickly. These are described as the ‘mental health core standards’:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan;
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees;
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling;
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development;
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors;
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

The report also highlights a series of more ambitious ‘enhanced’ standards for public sector employers, and private sector employers with more than 500 employees. These are to:

  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting;
  • Demonstrate accountability;
  • Improve the disclosure process;
  • Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help.

The report states that a number of factors will help implementation of the core and enhanced standards, including increasing employer transparency to expand the breadth and depth of employer action on mental health; engaging trade unions, industry groups, and professional/regulatory bodies; and using digital tools and products to facilitate interventions in the workplace. In terms of transparency, the report recommends new legislation and guidance to encourage employers to report on workplace mental health on their websites and the adoption of workplace mental health indicators in employer rating initiatives.

All employers will need to read today’s report and consider the impact on their organisation; the report is clear that it is aimed at all businesses – small, large, private, voluntary or public sector. Some businesses may already be well on the road to achieving the recommended standards; others will only be just starting their journey, and may not yet have taken even a first step. Employees will need to consider what is achievable in their own particular business and tailor the standards to fit their organisation, ensuring that all levels and types of role are taken into consideration. Creating a culture and environment, embedded at the highest level, where both employers and employees are open to discussing the issues is key; and the time to start engaging with this is now.

If you would like guidance or advice in respect of the key recommendations contained within the report, please contact Adam Hartley ( or your usual DLA Piper contact.