Course learners working together during a mental health first aid training course.

Mental health and employer's duty of care

Find out more on mental health in the workplace and the employer's duty of care.

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What are the different types of mental health first aid and wellbeing courses?

What is the role of a Mental Health First Aider?

The role of the Mental Health First Aider is to support employees in the workplace who are experiencing mental ill health or distress. This support can vary from having a non-judgmental conversation with a colleague to guiding them towards the right support.

The Mental Health First Aider role includes:

  • Being able to recognise the early signs and symptoms of common workplace mental health illnesses
  • Having the necessary skills to have a supportive, non-judgmental conversation with those who need it
  • Possessing the knowledge and confidence to guide colleagues to the appropriate professional support if they require it
  • Promoting greater awareness of mental health in the workplace and reducing stigma.

What is the impact of mental illness in the workplace?

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental illness each year [1]. In 2021/22, on average 18.6 workdays were lost per person due to stress, depression, or anxiety. [2]

Mental illness costs UK businesses approximately £56 billion each year, this equates to:

  • Presenteeism approx. £28 billion
  • Staff turnover approx. £22 billion
  • Absenteeism approx. £6 billion. [3]

On estimate, £1 invested in mental health support for employees will see a return of £5 in reduced absences and presenteeism. [3] 

How effective are Mental Health First Aid courses? 

Independent research and evaluation show that taking part in a Mental Health First Aid course raises awareness of mental illnesses, encourages early intervention to aid recovery, increases confidence in dealing with mental illnesses and reduces stigma.

Why does an employer’s duty of care include staff mental health?

Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure that employees are provided with a safe working environment. They must take reasonable care to prevent personal injury (including mental or physical harm) that may arise in the workplace.

What are the business consequences of ignoring mental health in the workplace?

Someone with poor mental health may be unaware or if they are, they may be reluctant to seek help, or might not know where to turn for care. In the workplace, there is still a great deal of ignorance around mental health issues, including uncertainty about how to recognise mental illness, and uncertainty about how to react when faced with it. This means that those in need of mental health help and support do not receive it.

When left uninformed, managers and co-workers may unwittingly exhibit stigmatising behaviours, which can be detrimental to a person experiencing a mental health issue. By failing to respond appropriately to an employee with a mental health issue, an organisation may open itself to a claim for compensation. This could be lengthy, expensive, and take precious time away from managers and staff.

Who should attend these courses?

Please be aware that these courses focus on employees and cover subjects that some people may find distressing, including suicide and self-harm. If a delegate feels overwhelmed they can leave the course at any time.

However, if you feel in advance that this subject may be too distressing for the delegate, do not book them on without asking them first. If the learner is unsure whether this course is suitable, please encourage them to contact us to discuss their concerns. For support with your mental health, please contact Samaritans on 116 123, or NHS 111.

[1] NHS England

[2] HSE Gov UK

[3] Deloitte 2022 UK Mental Health Report

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