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UK SMEs calling for mental health helpline as stigma remains

With mental ill health still seen as a stigma in many workplaces, a large majority of the UK’s SME owners are calling for a mental health helpline similar to the NHS 111 service.  With 84% of respondents backing the notion of a helpline, there is strong support for this type of service.  

UK SMEs calling for mental health helpline as stigma remains 

  • 84% in favour of a centralised mental health helpline  
  • 54% feel people suffering with their mental health are still stigmatised in the workplace
  • 64% of firms have policies in place to support employees with mental ill health

“Statistically, mental health affects one in four people,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “It’s clear that it impacts both individuals and businesses in a multitude of ways, including economically.

"For example, mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers almost £35 billion last year, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

“Anything that can be done to get people the correct help, quickly, can only benefit both those affected and the people around them, and while there are multiple helplines available, our research is telling us is that – in the first instance - businesses of all sizes and across all sectors would find it more helpful to refer employees to a single resource.” 

Stigma still prevalent 

Over half (54%) of respondents say that people with mental health are still stigmatised in the workplace, with Greater London (63%) and Wales (65%) tracking well above the national average. 

“According to the Mental Health foundation, the social stigma attached to mental ill health and the discrimination people experience can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover,” said Neil. “However, what they also say is that most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help early on, which one of the reasons why UK SMEs are calling for a helpline.”

Policies and government support 

Nationally, nearly two thirds (64%) of firms have policies in place to support employees with mental ill health; however, this falls to just 42% for smaller firms. 

“Many businesses with lower turnover and smaller staff numbers don’t have the capacity or resources to support colleagues with mental ill health and consequently rely on government support,” said Neil.

“However, only 19% of firms employing 10 or fewer people feel that there are sufficient government services – including advice services – for SMEs to help support employees with mental ill health, compared to the national average of 39%.”




All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a Lightspeed survey conducted in August 2018. The survey canvassed the opinion of nearly 1,000 SME owners across the UK and RoI and across several industries on a range of issues affecting their businesses.