Press release: Mental Health at Work Report 2017

Mental Health at Work 2017: Rising numbers of employees face demotion, disciplinary action or dismissal for disclosing mental health issues 
  • Business in the Community’s study shows shifting attitudes towards mental wellbeing at work with more employers acknowledging their responsibility to staff mental wellbeing 
  • Yet 15% of employees who disclosed mental ill health subsequently face dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion 

Most UK employees have experienced mental health issues because of work yet over a million people face negative consequences after disclosing, according to a new report, Mental Health at Work published today by the charity Business in the Community in advance of World Mental Health Day.

YouGov surveyed over 3,000 people in work across the UK for the study and found that three in five (60%) employees have experienced mental health issues because of work. Yet despite 53% of people feeling comfortable talking about mental health at work, a significant percentage of employees risk serious repercussions for disclosing a mental health issue. 15% of employees face dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion after disclosing a mental health issue at work (compared to 9% identified in similar research undertaken in 2016). Scaled up to the general working population, this could mean as many as 1.2 million people* negatively affected for disclosing mental health problems.

The report highlights some significant improvement in attitudes towards mental health in the workplace.  84% of employers acknowledge that they have a responsibility towards their employee's mental wellbeing. And 91% of managers agree that what they do affects the wellbeing of their staff. However, despite this, less than a quarter (24%) of managers have received any training in mental health. There also remains a pervasive culture of silence over mental health at work with three out of four people affected choosing not to involve anyone at work.

Commenting on the findings, Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community said:

“Despite the increased prominence of mental health as a workplace issue, it remains the elephant in the room that over a million people face serious repercussions for disclosing mental health issues to their employers. This report is an urgent call to action for collective leadership from employers to end this injustice and provide better support. It is time to challenge the myth that having mental health issue equates to poor performance. We must equip managers with the knowledge and training to make the reasonable workplace adjustments that enable people to stay in work and thrive.”

The report also finds that:

  • Half of line managers would welcome training on mental health conditions and 35% report not having any workplace facilities or services to support employee mental health and wellbeing.
  • Just 11% of people felt able to disclose a mental health issue to their line manager.
  • Young people are more likely to have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition (37% vs 29% of employees in their 50s) – but less likely to disclose these concerns to their bosses then older workers. Only a third of 18-29-year olds are comfortable talking with their managers about mental health compared to almost half of people in their 40s.
  • Women are more likely to report experiencing mental health issues related to work (64% reporting issues compared to 56% of men).
  • Mental health is one of the most difficult subjects to talk about at work. Out of the nine equality and social issues asked about in the survey, people find it more comfortable talking about 7 other issues including race, age, physical health and religious beliefs. 
  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees are less likely to feel comfortable talking about mental health at work (43% compared to 54% of white employees).
  • There is a disconnect between how senior leaders and employees view this issue. 61% of owners, CEO’s and Managing Directors believe their employee's mental health is well supported compared to 40% of non-managers.


“The study shows a positive trend with an increasing number of employers taking responsibility for staff mental wellbeing and employing an increasingly diverse set of tools to raise awareness of mental health issues,” said Dr Wolfgang Seidl, UK and European Workplace Health Consulting Leader for Mercer – sponsor of the study. “However, a minority of employers seem to follow an unsophisticated response to employees’ disclosure of mental health issues by administering disciplinary action, dismissal or demotion. Destigmatisation of mental health is sorely needed and can be achieved by moving from a piecemeal approach of isolated tactical interventions to a truly strategic approach. Having in place a coherent mental health pathway with appropriate referral opportunities at the right time is essential.”

Dr Seidl added: “Once a logical professional pathway for referrals is in place, line managers are less worried about getting their response right and mental health loses some of its stigma because it is treated like any health issue.”Business in the Community has today published actions** and recommendations to help businesses address the stigma around mental health and take practical action to remove it. This includes more training for line managers, so they understand how to make appropriate reasonable adjustments to support an employee with mental health issues in the same way that they would for an employee with physical needs.

The Mental Health at Work report is drawn from the findings of the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey sponsored by Mercer and undertaken by YouGov. It is a three-year collaborative project supported by strategic partners The Institute of Leadership and Management, Mental Health at Work, Mental Health First Aid England, Mind and The Work Foundation, to transform workplace mental health.    

The full report and recommendations are now available online at  social media @BITC #MentalHealthatWork   ENDS

Notes to editors

*There are currently 27.1 million employed people in the UK according to ONS Employment Figures, September 2017. Mental Health at Work shows that 15% of people who have experienced mental health issues faced demotion, disciplinary or dismissal for disclosing. This represents 4.5% of all employees surveyed for the report. 4.5% of the UK working population is 1.2 million. 

**  Business in the Community is calling on employers to:

  1. Talk – Break the culture of silence around mental health by signing up to the Time to Change Employers Pledge
  2. Train – Invest in basic mental health literacy for all employees and mental first aid training for line managers
  3. Take action – Implement the practical guidance found in Business in the Community/Public Health England mental health employer toolkit and measure their progress using the free self-assessment tool.


Interviews with Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community, employers, and employees are available upon request along with case studies of individual experiences of mental health in the workplace.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:  

Alex Delaney,, T: 020 7566 8694 / 07766 161419

Laura Cooney,, T: 020 7566 8653.

About Mental Health at Work
The National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey is a comprehensive assessment of workplace mental health in the UK. It is based on the key findings from a YouGov panel survey of 3,006 full- and part-time employees that is representative of gender, age, race, industry sector, region and business size, excluding sole traders and those working alone. Our survey reflects the experiences of men and women currently in employment, from front line workers to senior managers and directors.

About Business in the Community 
Business in the Community is the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. Our members work together to tackle a wide range of issues that are essential to building a fairer society and a more sustainable future.We engage thousands of businesses through our programmes driven by our core membership of over 800 organisations from small enterprises to global corporations.

About Mercer
Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organisations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mercer’s more than 22,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With more than 60,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $13 billion, through its market-leading companies including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.