November 29, 2018

Changes for Mental Health Support

With more people experiencing issues regarding mental health in the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produced some additional guidance on how employers can support employees. This includes providing training for staff so that they are aware of the issues surrounding mental health and action that can be taken to improve a person’s wellbeing. 

The additional guidance was intended to assist employers but also to highlight the need for changes to be made to health and safety legislation. Further attempts to prompt the necessary changes were taken by the HSE, who published an open letter (supported by Mental Health and First Aid England) which was sent to the Prime Minister asking for the pledges in the manifesto to deliver changes to Health and Safety law so that it includes the protection of mental health.

The letter was requesting that the law is changed so that it is a statutory requirement to make ‘mental health first aid’ equal with first aid for physical injuries.

St John’s Ambulance Service has welcomed the new guidance as they believe that it is as essential to have good mental wellbeing, and have trained over 6,000 mental health first aid workers in a year. 

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)

Currently, MHFA England is running campaigns and working with HSE to raise awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing.

They are also delivering training into various organisations, such as schools and public bodies so that employees can deal with issues surrounding mental health and since the training has been given there has been a positive impact on staff, as employees have had earlier access to support.

The training has prompted a change in the workplace that has given employees the confidence to go to management and ask for help. Staff who are not fit to be in work due to their poor mental health but lack the confidence to speak to their employer can become a health and safety risk for the Company. 

Mental Health In the Workplace

Reduced production/productivity through absence from the workplace due to poor mental health causes a yearly loss of £30bn. Therefore, it is crucial that all aspects of an employee’s well-being be considered.

It has been noted that there is a significantly higher number of people requiring the intervention surrounding mental health than there are for physical injuries. Therefore, within the workplace, it is just as essential to help employees maintain a good level of mental health within their employment with your Company.

There is currently no explicit requirement for employers to create provisions or policies for the mental wellbeing. However, a person is experiencing stress or anxiety in the workplace can have a direct impact on their productivity and the efficient running of a Company, and it is not possible to solve with one single action. Managing stress or another condition may help prevent it from becoming a much bigger concern.

An employee that is experiencing mental ill health may be more likely to experience conflict with other colleagues, and find it more difficult to manage their work load.

Supporting Employees can include the following;

  • Ensure that you have access to support for both mental and physical health. Let employees know whom they can contact if they need to;
  • Set up channels that give employees the confidence to speak about any struggles they have with their mental health;
  • Consider any reasonable changes that can be made within the Company to reduce stress or anxiety;
  • Provide training to help employees understand mental health. This will help with spotting any signs that a person may be struggling.

Summary

As more employees are experiencing mental health issues within the workplace, it is essential to try and maintain an environment that, where possible, is focused on reducing avoidable stress. More employees are likely to need help with their mental wellbeing than their physical health.

There is a possibility that Health and Safety Law will change to include mental health, it would be highly beneficial to both employers and employees to implement a system before a Company is legally obliged to. This will help you identify any procedures that could be improved, and you will have policies to work on when legislation changes are introduced.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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