Employers are being urged to create working environments where employees are able to candidly discuss mental ill-health, after research found that it is still ignored.

The research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that only four in 10 employees would feel confident to disclose mental ill-health to their employer. CIPD and the mental health charity, Mind, have suggested that economic woes in 2012 will create the ‘perfect ingredients’ for a surge in mental ill health.

CIPD surveyed 2,000 workers and found that while 26% reported experiencing mental health issues, only 25% say they work for an employer who encourages employees to talk openly about mental health. Only 37% of respondents said their employer supports employees with mental health problems well.

Four-fifths of respondents with mental ill-health reported that it was caused or made worse by their work.

“This research shows that there is still a long way to go until workers feel able to discuss their mental health openly in work, enabling them to get the support they need,” said Mind chief executive Paul Farmer. “With one in four people surveyed having experienced mental ill health, this is an issue that will touch almost every workplace in the country.”

“Supporting staff through a difficult period does not have to cost the earth and can have huge benefits for any organisation.”

The findings were launched the same day as CIPD and Mind published new guidance for employers on how to manage and support mental health in the workplace and create a culture where employees can discuss instances of mental ill-health at an early stage of development.

Commenting on the findings, Ben Willmott, CIPD head of public policy, said: “Managing mental health at work is central to good business performance.

“Stress is the number one cause of long-term sickness absence, but it is not just time lost to absence which impacts on the bottom line. Our survey highlights that the majority of people with poor mental health continue to attend work, and report that it can impact on their ability to concentrate, make good decisions and provide effective customer service.

“It is estimated that this presenteeism costs UK businesses £15.1 billion per year in reduced productivity, while mental health related sickness absence costs £8.4 billion.

“Mental ill health is usually caused by a complex interaction between pressures at work and at home, so increasing worries about debt, home repossession and job insecurity, as the economy continues to remain depressed, may well lead to a surge in mental ill health.”

Last reviewed 16 February 2012