Q- My client has asked me about the need for a mental health first aider at work, is this a legal requirement?
A- Whilst the need for a mental health first aider is not currently a legal requirement, it is a practice my client should consider implementing given the rise in reported instances of work-related mental ill health and the detrimental impact this can have for employers.
It is likely my client’s questions have derived from recent calls for the government to amend the law, making it a requirement for all employers to have a qualified mental health first aider in place. The recently formed “Where’s Your Head At?” campaign has received the backing of a number of politicians, celebrities and health experts asking individuals to sign up to an online petition which will, providing it reaches over 100,000 signatures, be debated in parliament.
The 2017 “Thriving at work” report, which was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May, calculated that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion per year.
This figure largely represents the calculation of lost productivity and absenteeism as well as the substantial cost of recruiting new staff, as it is estimated that 100,000 individuals leave their job each year because of poor mental health.Therefore, my client may benefit greatly from the introduction of a mental health first aider to help provide initial support to staff experiencing mental health issues, in the same way a physical health first aider would in the aftermath of a workplace incident.
Training individuals to identify signs of mental distress, listen without judgement and guide employees to further support could save UK employers millions in lost productivity and foster an open and considerate workplace culture.Clients who wish to encourage staff to become mental health first aiders should consider footing the bill for the training programmes that are arranged by Mental Health First Aid England.
It would be particularly useful for line managers to become first aiders given that they are often tasked with overseeing a team of individuals and it may be wise to offer additional non-monetary perks as an incentive to the training.
Those wishing to use this week to reflect on how to further promote better mental health in their workplace may also wish to consider the following solutions:
Implementing a mental health workplace policy
Introducing Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP’s)
Offering occupational sick pay to deal with mental health issues