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 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, through 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. In 2016, 15.8 million UK work days were lost due to mental illness.*

The largest causes of sickness absence for our county’s workforce is depression, stress, and anxiety. Mental illness costs UK businesses around £35 billion every year, this equates to £10.6 billion lost to sickness absence, £21.2 billion in reduced productivity, and £3.1 billion in substituting staff members who vacate their roles due to mental illness.**

 

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid teaches managers and staff how to spot signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, provide non-judgemental support and reassurance, and guide a person to seek professional support they may need to recover.

Workplace mental health training has been proven to make a lasting difference in people’s knowledge and confidence around mental health. Thanks to the development of mental health first aid training courses, responsible employers now have an opportunity to address the key issue of ignorance about mental health in the workplace. Those that choose to do so are likely to improve the workplace for staff and have a positive impact on business profitability.

 

How effective are the Mental Health First Aid courses?

Independent research and evaluation shows 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.

Research suggests that improving UK workplace mental health management could reduce employers’ losses attributed to mental illness by 30%, collectively saving £8 billion a year.

 

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 and 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 not realise it and even if they do, 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. Furthermore, 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 in the workplace 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 please do not book them on without first asking them whether they would feel comfortable attending. If the delegate is unsure whether MHFA is right for them, 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.

 

*Office of National Statistics
**MHFA England

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