The government has unveiled plans to provide more support for employees suffering with mental health problems through increased funding for the Access to Work programme.

Work and pensions secretary James Purnell said more help will be offered to those suffering from mental health conditions who are already in work and those who are finding it difficult to secure employment.

Improved support will also be provided to employers to help them deal with issues relating to mental health in the workplace in a sensitive and productive way.

Mr Purnell said mental health problems cost the UK economy over £40 billion a year.

"We know work is generally good for people’s health and wellbeing so we need to take steps to intervene earlier and support people before it is ever a serious issue," he remarked.

The mental health charity Mind suggested recently that employers should be better educated about mental health issues, pointing out that one-quarter of staff are likely to suffer from a mental health problem at some point.