Investment manager CCLA is launching a mental health benchmark to enable investors to measure and compare how companies are managing employee needs.
CCLA, which manages portfolios for charities and local authorities, started looking into building the tool, named the CCLA Mental Health Benchmark, in early 2019 after recognising companies were not addressing mental health in the workplace, in the same way they were addressing physical health and safety.
The firm added its research identified that mental health remains a topic which managers and employees find difficult to discuss through fear of stigma. However, if companies were to promote strong mental health and ensure the topic was not taboo in the workplace, they could see increased retention of skilled employees, and improve their reputation and sustainability. This would, CCLA said, strengthen the business and its contribution to the wider economy.
Amy Browne (pictured), stewardship lead at CCLA, commented: “Investment markets will be only as healthy as the people, communities and environments that support them. However, our preliminary research and interviews with companies showed little commonality in approach, and a stark lack of monitoring and public disclosure on workplace mental health.
“As investors, we believe that companies who can successfully support their staff are likely to be standout performers over the long term. Our aim is to highlight the companies who should be recognised as leaders, and to encourage others to follow their example. Getting the measure of employee mental health is not an easy task, but it is an essential one. Our goal is to drive collective, systemic advances in the way companies approach the wellbeing of their most precious assets – their people.”
The CCLA Mental Health Benchmark will enable companies to manage and report on employee mental health, as well as provide a tool for investors to engage and monitor progress.
The first disclosure will focus on the top 20 FTSE 100 businesses by market cap and expand from there. It will help companies and investors identify key expectations on mental health and evaluate corporate practices. It will look at factors such as whether a company promotes mental health awareness among employees and contractors, whether it considers mental health safeguarding in job design and whether managers are trained to provide positive mental health support in the workplace.
CCLA said the initiative will be supported by a panel of investors, mental health experts and employee wellbeing practitioners.
Elizabeth Sheldon, COO at CCLA, added: “The human impacts of negative mental health are significant and far-reaching – the rise in suicide rates is a tragic reminder of the importance and urgency of positive action on this issue. Within companies, Covid-19 has forced mental health to the top of agendas, as employees and companies alike grapple with scores of new demands and pressures upon them.”
“We know that if employee mental health is a normal part of the conversation, the workplace can be a powerful facilitator of positive change. But companies lack an effective framework and tools to manage it competently and a sense of stigma prevails. We hope that the creation of a universal benchmark will help companies support the mental wellbeing of their employees, the foundation to success in any company.”
Almost one in five adults was likely to be experiencing some form of depression in the UK in June 2020, this has almost doubled from around one in 10 before the pandemic, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.