Ground breaking study on workplace mental health: Companies need to strengthen governance to sustain strategic focus

by | May 26, 2022

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The first-ever benchmark on the management and disclosure of corporate mental health among 100 of the UK’s largest companies is published today.

The CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark – UK 100 (‘the benchmark’) assesses and ranks 100 of the UK’s largest employers listed on the London Stock Exchange – who together account for approximately 5 million global employees – on how they are approaching and managing workplace mental health.

It aims to incentivise employers to create the conditions under which workers can thrive and to highlight the economic link between thriving workers and healthy, sustainable companies.

It revealed that, while most companies now publicly acknowledge mental health as an important business concern, many have a considerable way to go to formalise their management and reporting on workplace mental health.

Further analysis showed that three-quarters (76%) of companies report that they have developed multiple workplace initiatives aimed at raising awareness of mental health in the workplace, and 91% of companies report that they provide employees with access to mental health services. Much of this has been in response to heightened need and psychological distress during the pandemic.

However, while 93% of the 100 companies acknowledge workplace mental health as an important business issue, only 34% publish formal objectives and targets, highlighting that many have not yet translated their policy commitments into action. Just 11% disclose any related key performance indicators.

The report also found that while 44% of companies have a clear position on promoting a culture of openness on mental health, public CEO advocacy is broadly lacking. Only 35% of benchmark company CEOs have publicly signalled a leadership commitment to promoting mental health in the workplace, making it difficult for investors to gauge the extent to which company leaders are championing mental health.

The benchmark evaluates companies’ public disclosures on workplace mental health using 27 distinct assessment criteria that are aligned with international standards and frameworks on psychological safety at work.

Based on their scoring against these criteria, the benchmark ranks companies across five tiers according to the maturity of their approach to managing and reporting on workplace mental health. A majority of companies are ranked across tiers three, four and five, with just three companies: Centrica PLC, Lloyds Banking Group PLC and Serco Group PLC assessed as leading the way on workplace mental health management and disclosure.

Paul FARMER CBE, Chief Executive Officer of mental health charity, Mind, said: “Mental health affects every employer. In 2020/21, we surveyed over 40,000 staff working across 114 organisations taking part in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. Two in five (41 per cent) told us their mental health had worsened during the pandemic.

“Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, which can include employees with mental health problems. Investing in staff wellbeing also makes business sense, as employers who promote good mental health at work are more likely to report higher productivity and morale, as well as reduced sickness absence.”

He continued: “We are pleased to be supporting CCLA’s new benchmark creating a structured, scalable way to help the UK’s largest companies build on the progress they’ve already made when it comes to identifying and tackling the work-related causes of poor mental health within their organisations.”

David ATKIN, Chief Executive Officer, The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), said:

“As we continue to live with Covid-19, workplace mental health is no longer a hidden topic for businesses – they need to ensure that the lessons from the pandemic are not forgotten and that they continue to prioritise support for employees.”

He continued: “Investors can play an important role in encouraging the companies they invest in to adopt workplace mental health strategies and engage with them to help drive best practice. Accountability is also key, and reliable tools such as the CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark will help investors understand the relative performance of companies and engage accordingly.”

Elizabeth SHELDON, Co-Chair of the CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark Expert Panel and Chief Operating Officer, CCLA, said:

“It is only in thinking and acting systemically that we can hope to meet the major sustainability challenges of our time. We consider corporate mental health to be one such challenge; healthy companies require healthy workers.

The CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark is designed to act as a catalyst for change in our industry. Our theory is that being able to understand and compare corporate practice on mental health will inform and accelerate the progress that is needed to enable companies, investors – and above all people – to thrive.”

The launch of CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark – UK 100 signals the next step in CCLA’s mental health engagement programme which began in 2019 with the ambition of uniting companies, clients and investors on the importance of positive mental health. The sister benchmark to the UK 100, the Global 100, is expected to launch in October 2022.

More On Mental Health in Financial Services

Check out this hugely powerful IFA Magazine Podcast from May 2022, where we talk to Standards International’s Michelle Hoskin about self care and why mental health really does matter. Michelle offers some really practical tips on how you can better support your own mental wellbeing as well as that of those people around you – friends, relatives and colleagues alike.

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