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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness
 Work and mental health

Supporting employees with a mental health problem

It pays to support employees with a range of health problems – including mental health problems.  Identify the impact health problems may have on work performance and make adjustments that will allow your employee to work to the best of their ability.


Looking after the health of employees and protecting them from harm in the workplace is a legal requirement.  The risks to employees’ health can arise from psychological as well as physical hazards, so it makes sense to ensure that your organisation puts the right policies and processes in place to manage these risks and to support your employees.  There is also good evidence that investing in building a healthy workplace makes economic sense. It protects and increases the productivity of your employees by reducing staff absence as well as staff presenteeism where staff turn up to work but perform below their best.  The 11th annual survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) of almost 600 organisations shows that presenteeism and reported mental health conditions have increased as a result of the recession.  CIPD point out that ‘Failure by organisations to address employees’ concerns may lead to mental health problems and costly longer-term consequences.’

If you support employees with mental ill-health to stay in work, this may aid their recovery and it may reduce the likelihood that you have to recruit new staff with all the costs that this incurs. 

Research suggests that employers underestimate how many people are affected by mental ill-health and one consequence is that most employers do not have effective policies to deal with employees’ mental health.  Price Waterhouse Coopers make the case that employers who do support employees with long-term or fluctuating health conditions, like mental health conditions, may have a competitive advantage over their rivals when it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees. 


Links to resources

Practical guides for line managers

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The HSE with CIPD and ACAS has developed a toolkit aimed at small and medium sized businesses to help you to manage sickness absence.  It has information on absence management practices and procedures that line managers can pick and choose information from. It is split into four parts to help managers:

  • Identify an absence problem
  • Develop an absence strategy
  • Deal with short-term absence
  • Deal with long-term absence

This links to information on workers’ rights and employers responsibilities.  The resources section includes publications on sick leave entitlement.

Policy reports

Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD)
Annual Survey Report 2010, Absence Management
This report of the 11th annual survey carried out among 573 organisations.  The report provides benchmarking data for organisations on absence levels and the cost and causes of absence.  This year there are topical sections about employee wellbeing and the effect of the economic climate on absence. These sections highlight the vital need for organisations to manage employee absence effectively. The report includes two case studies which focus on early interventions to minimise absence. 

Mental health and work

Royal College of Psychiatrists, Health, Work and Wellbeing, 2008

This review was commissioned by the cross government Health, Work and Wellbeing Programme.  This report includes a section on the effect of stigma and discrimination in the workplace.  It includes quotes from people with mental health conditions, some of whom have been treated well at work and the effect on others when the necessary adjustments have not been made to aid their return to work.