Employees with poor mental health should be offered cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness or stress management, according to a draft guideline on mental health in the workplace.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) draft guideline on workplace mental wellbeing said organisations should adopt a preventive and proactive approach to mental wellbeing and foster a positive and supportive working environment.

Mental health should be included in manager training and employees should be encouraged to discuss any mental wellbeing concerns with their supervisor, and then work together to identify and understand sources of stress, agree any additional support and ways to minimise work-related stressors.

Support at an organisational level could include flexible working hours and changes to the job to minimise risks to mental wellbeing.

Managers should discuss whether employees with poor mental health wanted to have a mental wellbeing intervention, as well as ensuring ongoing and confidential discussions about the employee’s mental health support needs.

‘The evidence agreed with the committee’s collective experience and showed that cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and stress management were effective in improving mental wellbeing outcomes in employees with poor mental health, although there was more limited evidence for cognitive behavioural therapy than for the other two options,’ the guideline authors wrote.

‘The committee thought it was important that employees were made aware of the option not to have an intervention and to take up an offer at a later date, or to stop an intervention at any time and restart it later.’

For smaller organisations who may have limited resources to offer these interventions, free and low-cost options included online resources like the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies pages of local mental health trusts.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ Access to Work mental health support service also had guidance to help employers understand mental ill health and how to support employees with mental health concerns. It also offered eligible employees an assessment to find out their needs and help them develop a support plan.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director of NICE’s centre for guidelines, said even before the pandemic, the state of the nation’s mental health had been a topic of conversation.

'Our new guideline has considered issues which were a problem before COVID-19 emerged and new issues which have presented themselves as a result of the pandemic,’ he said.

Consultation on the draft guideline is open until 5pm on Friday, 29 October 2021.