Trend update: Why mental health problems are a ticking timebomb for employers

Mental health issues within the British population are rising, yet over half of employers fail to offer support staff with these challenges. It is a ticking timebomb of trouble for all concerned.


One English adult in six suffers from a common mental health disorder, according to the latest Mental Health and Wellbeing in England Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey published this September, but only one third of those are currently undergoing mental health treatment.

The number is higher for women, with one in five suffering from a common mental health disorder, compared to one in eight men.

The new NHS research found that mental health disorders can also take a physical toll on those suffering from these conditions – increasing the impact on the workplace.

The report revealed that over a third (37.6%) of people with severe symptoms of a common mental health disorder also reported suffering from a chronic physical condition, compared to just 25.3% of those with no or few symptoms of a common mental health disorder.

This comorbidity, or presence of more than one condition, adds 45% to the person’s total health care cost.

And this is only one way that mental health can have further reaching consequences than what employers are aware of on first glance.

This has been likened to the tip of the iceberg by researchers from RedArc, which provided a list of other issues raised as a result of mental health conditions, including concerns of debt and taking time off work, feelings of failure and inability to do the job, and the shame and stigma all too often associated with mental health disorders making it hard to face co-workers.

But as many as half of employers are failing to give their staff the support they need when it comes to handling mental health disorders in the workplace.

Research from Group Risk Development (GRiD) found that 50% of employers who offer group critical illness, group income protection and group life assurance don’t make use of the support services that come as part of the contract.

Such support services include employee assistance programmes, mental health first aid training and fast-track access to counselling, and are usually provided at no additional cost to the employer.

And with half of Generation Y workers reporting heightened levels of stress, compared to just 44% of Generation X and 35% of the Baby Boomers, according to a study of 1,895 employees by Willis Tower Watson (2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey), the impact of mental health on the UK’s workforce could be set to get worse.

Employers need to act now if they are not to be counting the cost over the coming years.

This article was written by Matt Scott, REBA's tame actuary. 

matt scott

He safeguards the reward community from hours of online research, his superstrength is delivering the numerical  proof you need to make your reward business case.

Read the next article

Topic Categories

Related Articles

Report: Employee Outlook: Focus on mental health in the workplace 2016

Sponsored Articles

Editor's Picks

The biggest workplace menopause challenges and how to tackle them

The importance of workplace savings in improving financial resilience

The power of creating ‘peak’ employee experiences

Join our community


Sign up for REBA Professional Membership and join our community

Professional Membership benefits include receiving the REBA regular email alert, gaining access to free research and free opportunities to attend specialist conferences.

Professional Membership is currently complimentary for qualifying reward and benefits practitioners. 

Join REBA today