FOLLOWING recent findings from Business in the Community’s (BITC) annual wellbeing survey, less than 24% of managers in the workplace have received training in mental health. Are employers acknowledging their duty of care in employee mental health?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. Yet, only a third of young professionals (18-29 years old) feel comfortable approaching management about their mental health issues.

In addition to this, older colleagues are not at risk of the same stigma - almost half of people in their 40s feel comfortable discussing mental health with management.

This shows that young people in particular could be most at risk of forming a mental health issue, with work being a contributing factor.

It’s shocking to think that only 76% of managers have not received any mental health training.
According to the annual survey detailed in the BITC report, this is despite 84% of employers understanding that they have a responsibility toward their employees’ mental wellbeing.

But, perhaps the bigger question is, what role should an employer play in their employees’ mental health?

Counselling Directory member, Heidi Marson, explains “Employers can play a helpful part in recognising and supporting employees by viewing the employee as a ‘whole person’ and appreciating that the individual may need support.”

When should a person go to their manager, rather than handling it on their own outside of work (via GP or counsellor)?

Heidi explains “Employers can often provide easily accessible resources for employees with mental health issues and be in a position to provide a timely, multi-strand support package that outside agencies, such as the NHS, are unable to provide.”

“An employer may be able to provide help and advice for the key concerns of an employee, such as financial issues, or legal disputes. Other examples include, flexible working, access to counselling or giving them space to discuss the issues they are facing.”

When work becomes detrimental to an employee's mental health, the employer is morally responsible for that, perhaps. But, if an employee has existing mental health issues, is an employer responsible for this too?

Heidi believes that employers can play a vital part in supporting employees with existing mental health issues, particularly through wellbeing incentives.

“Wellbeing programmes needn’t be costly, for example, lunchtime walks, yoga and mindfulness are all extremely effective in improving wellbeing. Programmes can be led by employees for the employees, which raises awareness and encourages engagement.”

BITC suggest senior leadership in many organisations (including owners and board members) claim that employee mental health and wellbeing is a priority in the workplace.

On the other hand, the survey results suggest this a merely an aspiration - as management and employees disagree with the reality of mental health in the workplace.

Whilst there is evidence of a strong relationship between levels of staff wellbeing, motivation and performance, at present, there appears to be a gap between the support that employees require in supporting their mental health, and what their managers have been trained to provide.

Line managers know the importance of good mental health, but there is perhaps a lack of support in providing the necessary training in order to cater for employee’s needs.

To combat this, in addition to their annual survey, BITC have also produced their own mental health toolkit for employers to help support those in management positions.

For further support, take a look at Counselling Directory’s self-care handbook, for advice on looking after yourself at work.

Editor’s notes:

For more information, contact Lauren Richardson, Counselling Directory PR Assistant, on 01276 580035. Alternatively you can email

Article above available for reprint in whole or in part, please credit and link to Counselling Directory. Stock photos available on request.

Counselling Directory Link:

Counselling Directory’s self-care handbook link:

BITC mental health toolkit for employers link:


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