Almost a third of employers think mandatory public reporting will improve workplace mental health

Nearly 1 in 3 (30%) UK Employers believe mandatory public reporting of workplace mental health statistics would increase transparency and accountability, and help tackle this important issue, according to a new survey.

The survey from Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing of more than 150 HR professionals considered the recommendations made in the Thriving at Work report –  Stevenson/ Farmer review of mental health and employers – and in particular, the suggestion that large employers (those with more than 500 employees) and all Public Sector organisations should implement a set of “enhanced” standards to improve the collective mental health of their employees.

The suggested enhanced standards include increasing transparency through internal and external reporting, demonstrating accountability, and improving the disclosure process.  Importantly, almost 1 in 3 (30%) employers were supportive of this suggestion, and more than half (52%) were open to the idea, subject to the detail of the requirements.  Only 14% of organisations thought these measures would not help.

Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden commented,

“The enhanced standards were suggested by the Stevenson / Farmer review two years ago, but they were initially only targeted at larger employers in the UK.   So we are delighted that many organisations of all sizes appear to now recognise the advantages of such an approach.  It’s likely that introducing these measures as a mandatory requirement – across employers of all sizes – might potentially strike a significant blow in the battle to improve workplace mental health.”

Herbert points to the recent introduction of Gender and Executive Pay Gap reporting as examples of mandatory reporting of workplace issues resulting in an additional and specific focus from employers.  It follows that if the same approach were applied to workplace mental health statistics, it might well produce a similarly positive response.

Herbert continued,

“Poor workplace mental health is often a hidden issue.  As such it will benefit all concerned if company level data was made public, and it would also provide the foundation for many more employers to take corrective actions as necessary.  It will be interesting to see if such an approach becomes mandated by legislation across a wide range of employers.”

The survey also found that employers may be experiencing very different levels of ill-health absenteeism as a result of poor mental health, anxiety, or stress.  Almost half (44%) of respondents thought these conditions accounted for between 20% and 40% of their total sickness absence figures.  But other responses suggested a very wide variance indeed, with 1 in 10 employers suggesting that these conditions accounted for more than half of their corporate absenteeism, and the same number indicating that these conditions were the cause of less than 10% of overall absence.

Herbert concluded,

“However employers choose to look at this issue, it is clear poor workplace mental health is bad news for both the employee and the employer and is a measure that all good organisations are now actively looking to improve.  There is a wide-range of Employee Benefits offerings that can assist in this mission, and we would strongly encourage more employers to seek professional assistance in using these tools as part of a robust mental health plan and solution.”