Nearly 25 percent of the largest listed employers in the UK have improved their overall workplace mental health performance over the past year.

Almost half of them now recognise the connection between financial well-being and the mental health of their employees.

These findings are from the second annual CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark-UK 100.

Given that poor workplace mental health costs UK employers in the private sector between £43-£46 billion annually, the benchmark evaluates the approach of 100 of the UK’s largest listed companies, each with over 10,000 employees.

These companies collectively employ a workforce of 5 million people and are assessed based on their global strategies for promoting mental health in the workplace. The benchmark ranks companies across five performance tiers, aiming to encourage companies and investors to address mental health as a systemic risk and develop robust management systems to support the well-being of companies and employees.

Mental health and wellbeing

Centrica, Experian, HSBC, and Serco have achieved the top tier in the benchmark, and 24 companies have moved up at least one tier since the inaugural benchmark in 2022. Notably, 10 firms have progressed out of tier five, and the number of companies ranking in the top two tiers has doubled compared to the previous year, with 19 companies in those tiers. Centrica, Experian, HSBC, and Serco Group emerged as the top performers overall, while the most significant improvement came from the Weir Group, climbing from tier four in 2022 to tier two in 2023.

Regarding the link between fair pay, financial well-being, and mental health, 43 percent of companies included in this year’s benchmark have published formal policies explicitly acknowledging this connection. This represents a substantial increase of 17 percentage points compared to the 26 percent reported in 2022, making it the most significant year-on-year improvement across the benchmark’s 27 performance indicators.

Amy Browne, Stewardship Lead at CCLA, emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have reinforced the belief that poor mental health poses a systemic risk. Companies have both an economic and moral imperative to manage this risk. Browne finds the increase in companies acknowledging the link between fair pay, financial well-being, and employee mental health encouraging, as it demonstrates a growing awareness among employers regarding their responsibilities for fostering good mental health in the workplace. Browne also expressed appreciation for the positive response from UK 100 companies, which have used the benchmark’s recommendations to strengthen their approaches and initiate meaningful conversations about mental health.

Attention needed!

While progress is being made, there are still areas that require attention. Although 93 percent of companies acknowledge the importance of mental health as a business issue, 34 percent have yet to formalize their commitment in a policy statement. Additionally, while 89 percent of UK companies are investing in mental health programs and initiatives, only 33 percent are reporting on the uptake of these initiatives.

One area in need of improvement is public leadership on workplace mental health. While 57 percent of companies have committed to removing the stigma associated with mental health (up from 44% in 2022), few leaders are publicly championing the issue. This lack of public support from leaders is concerning for investors who see CEO leadership as a crucial driver of change. Currently, fewer than one in four CEOs (37%) formally signal their leadership on mental health.

Paul Farmer, former CEO of Mind and co-author of ‘Thriving at Work,’ stressed the importance of business leaders taking visible and intentional action in response to the challenges faced by UK workers in the post-pandemic recovery and cost-of-living crisis. With approximately 15 percent of the global working population experiencing a mental disorder at any given time, leaders have a critical role to play in addressing this new challenge. Farmer highlighted the need for corporate leadership efforts to be further intensified, as the marginal improvement in CEOs publicly supporting workplace mental health suggests that more energy is required. Corporate practices in this area have significant moral and financial implications that companies and investors must closely monitor to ensure progress is made and the compassionate leadership lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic are not forgotten.

What about adequate pay?

Peter Hugh Smith, Chief Executive of CCLA, emphasized that healthy financial markets depend on healthy communities, and the cost of mental ill-health among corporate employees is significant. Employers play a vital role in improving the mental well-being of their workers, which includes fair and adequate pay, secure and high-quality jobs, and valuable benefits. From an investor’s perspective, it is crucial for companies to take proactive steps in addressing this issue, as it leads to a triple win: benefiting employees, employers, and investors. Failing to do so carries significant financial risks. While positive progress has been made, there is still a long way to go, and as an industry, collective efforts are necessary to support companies in doing more.

The CCLA Corporate Mental Health benchmark not only serves as a valuable tool to assess and hold companies accountable but also functions as an engagement mechanism for a growing global coalition of investors and asset owners. Currently, 45 signatories to the Global Investor Statement on Workplace Mental Health, collectively managing over $8.5 trillion in assets, are actively involved. The Global 100+, the sister benchmark to the UK 100, will be released in October 2023.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.