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Failure of employers to provide mental health support risks lower productivity and business losses, QBE survey finds

By Sandra Villanueva
Senior Media Relations Manager

The cost to businesses of failing to support employees with mental health issues is revealed starkly in research by QBE, the business insurance specialist, which found that the cost of losing business or contracts was an average £52,000.

Despite 90% of senior business leaders thinking mental health problems are a valid reason to take sick leave, two out of three also said that an employee’s history of mental health problems would influence the level of responsibility or opportunities they were given, while just 9% said it would have no effect.

A quarter of the senior executives surveyed said their business did not offer any workplace mental health support and 40% said they would prefer employees experiencing mental health problem related to stress, anxiety or depression to continue working rather than taking time off.

Grant Clemence, Senior Manager and Mental Health Champion at QBE, said: “Businesses are beginning to recognise the beneficial impact that supporting mental wellness in the workplace can have, and while some employers may see absence as a cost, not allowing employees to take time to recover when they need it could be just as damaging. Workplace cultures mean many are not taking time off when they need it.”

 The QBE research found that 40% of the senior decision takers surveyed had experienced a loss of business as a result of employees continuing to work while experiencing mental health problems.

Almost one in five (17%) employers have failed to deliver products or services due to an employee continuing to work while experiencing mental health problems. 11% have also experienced loss of customers and one in 10 lost business and contracts.

In a separate survey of employees, half said they had not taken time off to recover from a mental health problem. An overwhelming majority (94%) said this had taken a toll on their productivity, most commonly as a result of tiredness and fatigue (52%), feeling distracted or unable to focus (41%) and feeling irritable (37%).

More than half of employees surveyed (53%) said they would feel pressure to come into work if they are experiencing a mental health problem such as stress, anxiety or depression and the same proportion said that taking time off work to rest and recover would improve their productivity on their return.

Grant Clemence said: “Our research showed a continued stigma around discussing and disclosing mental health in the workplace Two thirds of employees who have experienced a mental health problem did not disclose it.  In addition to leave or flexible working to help support employees and boost productivity, employers should also consider offering mental wellness programmes.”

The majority of employers surveyed have implemented programmes to support mental health in the workplace in the past 12 months, such as flexible working, leave for mental health problems, and mental wellness support, with 62% noting an increase in employees’ productivity.

The research was carried out by Opinium in an online survey of 502 UK senior decision makers and a public survey of 1,300 employees.


For further information contact:

Sandra Villanueva, Corporate Communications, QBE, 020 7105 284, 

Alexis Burris, Corporate Communications, QBE, 020 3465 3921, 

About QBE

QBE European Operations is part of QBE Insurance Group, one of the world’s leading international insurers and reinsurers and Standard & Poor’s A+ rated. Listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, QBE’s gross written premium for the year ended 31 December 2018, was US$13.7 billion.

As a business insurance specialist, QBE European Operations offers a range of insurance products from the standard suite of property, casualty and motor to the specialist financial lines, marine and energy. All are tailored to the individual needs of our small, medium and large client base.

We understand the crucial role that effective risk management plays in all organisations and work hard to understand our clients’ businesses so that we offer insurance solutions that meet their needs – from complex programmes to simpler e-trading solutions – and support them in minimising their risk exposures. Our expert risk management and rehabilitation practitioners focus on helping clients improve their risk management so that they may benefit from a reduction in claims frequency and costs.

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Sandra Villanueva

Sandra Villanueva

Head of Media Relations & Content, QBE International