The article was first published by the HR Review on December 11, 2018.
Laura Conway: Mental health first aid in the workplace from an employment law perspective
Leading employment lawyer Laura Conway at Wedlake Bell LLP discusses how businesses can provide better support for mental health in the workplace and advises on effective mental health policies they can introduce
On 18 November 2018, a letter from Mental Health First Aid was sent to the Prime Minister to request that the Government prioritise its manifesto pledge to make it mandatory for workplaces to have trained mental health first aiders, as well as physical first aiders. The letter was signed on behalf of a number of well-known businesses such as Bupa, WHSmith, and PwC and referenced a petition on the issue that had received over 200,000 signatures.
So why is this felt to be necessary? There has been a lot of publicity on the impact of mental ill health in the workplace of late, and for good reason. The recent announcement from the Health and Safety Executive that, for the first time ever, work-related stress, anxiety and depression, together, now account for more than half of all working days lost due to ill health, illustrates the importance of the issue. As the letter makes clear, “Each year, workplace mental health issues cost the UK economy almost £35 billion, with 15.4 million working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. But the cost is not just financial, because left untreated mental ill health impacts a person’s relationships with friends and family and ultimately their quality of life”. Therefore, there is a real incentive for businesses to tackle the issue, by ensuring that the workplace and working practices do not exacerbate the problem and by providing appropriate support to try and minimise its harmful impact, both on the individual and the business.
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