Only one in five employers has met the first mental health core standard

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Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing survey highlights that few employers are on course to meet the minimum standards outlined in the “Thriving at Work” report.

In October 2017 the “Stevenson/ Farmer review of mental health and employers” suggested that all UK employers should meet a framework of six* core standards to improve their workplace mental health.  The report also highlighted that all organisations should be capable of meeting these standards quickly.

However, a recent survey from Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing of more than 150 senior HR and Finance professionals, highlighted most employers remain some way short of this objective.  

Just 19% of organisations surveyed had achieved the first core standard, which asks employers to “Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan”. Almost half (48%) of all respondents hadn’t yet made any progress towards this standard.  

Commenting on these findings, Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden said, “Poor workplace mental health has long been recognised as a key challenge for companies. It is the main cause of sickness absence in the UK, with estimates suggesting it costs UK employers between £33bn and £42bn each year.  It is therefore surprising that as we approach the two-year anniversary of the Stevenson/Farmer review, only a fifth of employers have taken the first steps towards producing a concrete plan to tackle this important issue.

The first core standard is a vital milestone for any organisation serious about improving their workforce mental health.  The fact so few employers have yet achieved even this level of compliance with the recommendations is indicative of the challenges employers perceive in tackling this often-sensitive issue.”

The survey also found that fewer than 1 in 10 of employers had met all six of the suggested core standards.  On a more promising note, most respondents indicated that some action was at least underway, with just 16% admitting to no progress at all.  

Herbert continued, “Our experience suggests employers are very keen to take action in this area, but often lack both the confidence and support to achieve this aim.  We would strongly encourage more organisations to urgently seek professional assistance in the planning and implementing of a robust workplace mental health plan and solution.  

“There are many tools available for employers today through a wide range of Employee Benefits offerings that can help to ensure mental health at work plans are truly effective. We also want to remind employers and employees that many are now accessible 24 hours a day through online apps.”


Media Enquiries:

Kathryn Hughes – Kayak PR
Tel: 0203 865 4090/07801823839
Email: [email protected]

Editor’s Notes:

*In October 2017 the “Stevenson/ Farmer review of mental health and employers” (entitled “Thriving at Work”) suggested that all organisations are capable of implementing the following mental health core standards quickly:

•    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
•    Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
•    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

(Note to journalists:  Items in italics are assumed to be standard practice for all UK employers – the survey therefore only focused on the first four recommendations that are far less common components of wellbeing offerings)

Full survey results:

The survey was undertaken amongst an audience of senior HR and Finance professionals at the Howden Employment Seminar in London on 4th June 2019. Survey results available on request.

About Howden’s Employee Benefits & Wellbeing division

Howden’s leading Employee Benefits & Wellbeing division in the UK provides strategic advice to consumers, SMEs and corporate clients on healthcare, protection, wellbeing and pension benefits, both in the UK and internationally. In 2019, the experienced team grew significantly following the acquisition of Punter Southall Health & Protection Holdings Limited and now employs over 190 professionals across the UK.  The team is multi-award winning and widely recognised for its innovative and creative approach.  

About Howden

Howden, the retail broking arm of Howden Group Holdings, provides a range of specialist insurance solutions to clients around the world. Together with Howden One, its global specialist insurance broking network, it comprises over 10,000 professionals, operating in more than 90 territories, and handling a combined gross written premium of over USD22bn.