Centrica, Experian, HSBC and Serco Group are the strongest performing large employers in the UK for workplace mental health, according to a new report.
The four businesses made the top tier of the second annual CCLA Investment Management’s Corporate Mental Health Benchmark – UK 100.
The research, which assessed 100 of the UK’s largest listed companies with 10,000 or more employees each, found that Weir Group had improved the most, reaching tier two in 2023 from tier four in 2022.
Representing around five million employees overall, the benchmark examined the companies’ global approach to mental health at work. It ranked them across five tiers of performance with an aim to encourage both organisations and investors to seriously consider mental health as a systemic risk, as well as to establish robust management systems that would allow both businesses and employees to thrive.
Almost a quarter (24) of firms had moved up the rankings since last year, including 10 that moved out of the bottom tier and nearly a fifth (19) rising to the top two tiers, doubling the number from last year’s benchmark.
Additionally, more than four in 10 (43%) have now published a formal policy that explicitly acknowledges the connection between financial and mental wellbeing.
Amy Browne, stewardship lead at CCLA, said: “Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis have only served to compound our belief that poor mental health is a systemic risk. Companies have an economic and moral imperative to manage this risk. The huge increase in companies acknowledging the link between fair pay and financial wellbeing, and the mental health of their employees, is encouraging. It demonstrates that employers have an increasing awareness of their own responsibilities in ensuring good mental health in the workplace.
“Over the last 12 months, we have been bowled over by some of the feedback we have received from UK 100 companies. Many have used our recommendations to strengthen their own approaches, while others have used our insights to initiate and escalate internal conversations on mental health to the highest level. While it’s encouraging to see solid progress from many, it is early days and we’ll be monitoring companies closely over time.”
However, while most (93%) of organisations acknowledge mental health as an important business concern, more than a third (34%) have not yet formalises their commitment to the issue in a policy statement. Similarly, 89% are investing in mental health initiatives, but just a third (33%) report on take up.
The benchmark further highlighted that public leadership is one of the key areas needing improvement. While more firms have committed to removing the stigma around mental health this year, up to 57% from 44% in 2022, not many bosses are publicly championing the cause – only 37% of CEOs are formally signalling their leadership on the issue.
Paul FARMER, former CEO of Mind, co-author of ‘Thriving at Work’ and member of the expert advisory panel for the CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark UK – 100, said: “Workers in the UK have been caught in the challenges of the post-pandemic recovery and cost-of-living crisis and there are now a clear range of ways that employers respond. With approximately 15% of the world’s working population experiencing a mental disorder at any given time, business leaders have a critical and hands-on role to play to step up to this new challenge.
“Leadership must be visible and it must be intentional. The marginal improvement we’ve seen this year in CEOs publicly signalling their support for workplace mental health could indicate that leadership efforts needs extra energy. This is an area of corporate practice that has significant moral and financial implications and which companies and investors alike should be monitoring closely. The positive lessons from Covid of a more compassionate leadership must not be lost at this crucial time.”
Peter Hugh Smith, CEO of CCLA, added: “Healthy financial markets need healthy communities and the cost of mental ill-health among the corporate workforce is significant.
“For companies, employers play an important role in improving the mental wellbeing of their workers. This includes paying people enough and fairly, offering secure, good-quality jobs, and providing benefits that extend the value of their pay.
“For investors, it is very straightforward, we want to see companies taking positive steps to address this issue and we are confident that this will deliver a triple win – for employees, for employers and for investors. The risk of not doing so is too financially punitive. We have started the journey, the early results are positive, but it’s a long road ahead. Collectively as an industry we need to help companies to do more.”