The U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new guidance on workplace mental health, as some of Britain’s top companies pressure the Government for legislative change.
The guidance included advice for companies on managing workplace mental health in ways appropriate for their business. This includes providing training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, implementing support programmes and appointing first aid workers trained in mental health.
This comes just days after 50 business leaders wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for improvements in the protection of workplace mental health.
Organised by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), the letter addressed the need for new legislation that would place mental health on equal ground with physical health. MHFA England chief operating officer, Fionuala Bonnar, said the change in legislation will establish a baseline for protecting workplace mental health, ensuring nobody is left behind.
Recent statistics from the HSE show 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017 due to work-related stress, anxiety and depression. Similarly, the National Health Service (NHS) released figures indicating one in six people of working age will experience mental health issues, including stress, anxiety or depression.
MHFA England chief executive, Simon Blake, said the new guidance was an important step towards supporting employees’ mental health, but that equality will only be reached when the law demands every workplace make provisions for physical and mental first aid.
“We look forward to achieving legislative change so that Health and Safety regulations are designed to protect our whole health, mental and physical.”
In the new guidance, HSE suggest employers may benefit from training staff in mental health first aid. These training courses develop a person’s ability to recognise signs of mental illness and provide them with skills to support themselves or others.
While it is a legal requirement for every workplace to have people trained in physical first aid, there is currently no such requirement for mental health first aid.
St John Ambulance, who currently provide first aid training in mental health, have expressed support for HSE’s updated guidance. Having already trained over 6,000 people across the country, they expect interest in their training courses to grow exponentially in response to the new guidance.