Few managers feel able to offer support or advice to employees with mental health problems, according to a survey.
Few employees believed their bosses could help them
Their lack of confidence is shared by employees. Just 2% of the 1,596 people questioned said their manager would be able to help if they had a problem.
Most managers said their company had no procedures in place to help people with depression or similar mental illnesses.
This is despite evidence that a growing number of people suffer from mental health problems.
The survey by The Work Foundation think-tank found that almost half of employees would turn to their boss for advice if they had a mental health problem.
However, 66% of managers rated themselves as learners or novices when it came to the issue.
Three-quarters of line managers said their organisation did not have adequate policies or procedures to deal with such problems.
The survey was carried out to mark the launch of a guide called The Line
Managers' Resource, which offers practical advice on managing and supporting
mental health in the workplace.
Will Hutton, chief executive of The Work Foundation, urged British businesses to take mental health problems seriously.
"Mental health difficulties hurt individuals. They also damage business.
"Productivity, performance, attendance, staff retention and morale - all are
affected when individuals experience stress, depression, eating disorders, panic
attacks or other difficulties.
"Therefore, it makes good business sense to take mental health seriously."
The findings follow a recent study which suggested that mental illness costs the British economy £77bn each year.
This is three times higher than previously estimated and includes days lost at work, cost to the NHS and poor quality of life.
The Centre for the Economics of Mental Health estimates that stress-related absences account for half of all sicknesses from work.
Research carried out in 2000 by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 47%
of people with mental health problems said that they had experienced
discrimination at work.
Health Minister Rosie Winterton described these latest findings as worrying.
"It's encouraging to see that almost half of employees with mental health problems will turn to their line manager for support and understanding.
"However, it is still very worrying that these employees don't feel that practical support will be forthcoming.
"There is clearly a gap in skills and information among line managers."