23 September, 2019

United Kingdom, London


Work is creating mental health issues for two in five employees


  • Two in five (39%) UK workers experienced symptoms of poor mental health related to work in the last year
  • More than six in ten (62%) managers said they had to put their company’s interests above staff wellbeing (every day, often or sometimes)
  • 52% of those experiencing mental health problems related to work say this is due to pressure such as too many priorities or targets

A report released today by Business in the Community (BITC), in partnership with Mercer Marsh Benefits and BITC’s Wellbeing Leadership Team, ‘Time to Take Ownership’, shows that most employers do not acknowledge or deal with the adverse impact work has on employees’ mental health.


Of the 39% of employees surveyed who have experienced poor mental health due to work, a third (33%) said that this was caused by negative work relationships (see table 1). One in four (24%) of those with work-related mental health problems explicitly cited bullying and harassment from their manager as a major cause. The report is based on YouGov survey data from more than 4,000 employees.


Mental and physical health needs to be considered equally important by employers.  The report sets out key recommendations to show businesses how to create positive, inclusive workplace cultures that help rather than harm the mental health of the people who work for them. These recommendations are proposed by Business in the Community, Mercer Marsh Benefits and nine key national partners.


Other key report findings:


  • The survey revealed a significant disconnect between company board members’ perceptions of how mental health is treated within their companies and what the rest of the organisation thinks. More than half (51%) of those at a CEO or board level believed that their organisation effectively supports its staff, compared with 38% of those without line management responsibilities.
  • There are barriers to managers providing effective support with more than six in ten (62%) managers saying they have had to put the interest of their organisation above staff wellbeing.
  • Only 7% of all employees have received training to recognise workplace stress factors.
  • One in three (33%) with mental health problems said that they felt ignored.
  • Around one in ten (9%) were subject to disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal following the disclosure of mental health issues.
  • One in ten workers resigned as a result, a figure which has plateaued since 2017.

Based on the report findings, Business in the Community have made three calls to action for businesses to help achieve better mental health for the UK workforce:


  1. Create good work that enhances mental health. Good work is created by elements including security, fair pay and professional development.
  2. Acknowledge and support employees experiencing poor mental health, whatever the cause.
  3. Publicly report your wellbeing performance.

Louise Aston, wellbeing campaign director at Business in the Community, said:


“While mental health awareness has risen significantly in recent years, our research shows that too many employers are tinkering at the edges of change rather than making the fundamental differences that are really needed to improve their employees’ mental health.


“People who come to work don’t expect to be physically injured and they should also not expect to be psychologically harmed. A profound cultural shift is paramount so that work itself doesn’t cause poor mental health but instead should enhance it.


“Those who want to be the best employers to attract top talent must remove the barriers to improving wellbeing, retention and productivity. Businesses are at their best when people are at their best. Let’s ensure people can bring their whole selves to work and thrive while they’re there.”


Tony Wood, Partner & UK leader for Mercer Marsh Benefits, said:


“Despite some signs of improvements, more action is needed to improve workplace mental health. Instead of pushing managers towards tactical ‘band-aid’ solutions, company leaders need to think strategically. Doing the right thing for their employees is also doing the right thing for their business.


“By encouraging empathy and an inclusive workplace culture, built on a foundation of psychological safety, companies can ensure lasting change in how we deal with mental health problems.”




Notes to editors


This report presents the key findings from a survey of 4,236 full and part-time employees in the UK that is representative of gender, age, industry sector, region and business size, excluding sole traders and those working alone. The survey explores mental health and wellbeing in the workplace with many questions tailored for managers and those who have a manager.


The report was carried out with 9 national partners, Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD), Mind, Mental Health at Work, Mental Health First Aid England, Institute of Leadership and Management, British Disability Foundation, Involve, Salary Finance, Society of Occupational Medicine.


Table 1





About Business in the Community


Business in the community is the oldest and largest business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business. We were created nearly 40 years ago by HRH The Prince of Wales to champion responsible business. 


We inspire, engage and challenge members and we mobilise that collective strength as a force for good in society to:   


  • Develop a skilled and inclusive workforce for today and tomorrow;
  • Build thriving communities where people want to live and work;
  • Innovate to sustain and repair our planet.

About Mercer Marsh Benefits


Mercer Marsh Benefits provides clients with a single source for managing the costs, people risks and complexities of employee benefits. The network is a combination of Mercer and Marsh local offices around the world, plus country correspondents who have been selected based on specific criteria. Our benefits professionals located in 135 countries and servicing clients in more than 150 countries, are deeply knowledgeable about their local markets. Through our locally established businesses, we have a unique common platform which allows us to serve clients with global consistency and locally unique solutions. Mercer and Marsh are two of the Marsh & McLennan Companies, together with Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman,. In the UK, Mercer Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.