Managing Mental Health in the Workplace: HSE Recommendations
2nd September 2019
HSE advice on managing mental health in the workplace
The Health and Safety Executive advises that, after a first aid needs assessment, an organisation may find it beneficial to have personnel trained to identify, understand and support someone experiencing mental health issues. HSE mental health recommendations help manage mental health in the workplace.
They suggest that organisations should consider providing first aid training courses covering mental health to managers or appointed first aiders within the company so that there is someone there in the workplace who can recognise the warning signs of mental ill-health and be there to help employees who may be suffering.
The HSE state that one in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point. Many employees feel a level of stress in the workplace due to pressure to perform and heavy workloads. In the long term, poor management of stress often leads to prolonged absences and more formalised mental health issues in the workplace such as anxiety, depression, and mental breakdowns.
Charity Mind noted that 14% of people asked in one study said they had resigned, and 42% agreed they had considered resigning due to workplace stress. They also stated one in five people had called in sick to avoid work due to stress. The culture of fear and silence that surrounds mental health is costly to employers.
The cost of mental ill health in the UK
It is estimated that mental ill-health costs the UK about £99 billion per year. Mental illness including stress, anxiety, and depression made up 44% of all illnesses recorded in UK workplaces in the years 2017-18. The Mental Health Foundation reported that 91 million working days are lost a year through mental health illness. It is not just the cost of absences that impact on a business but the cost of lost productivity from someone who is suffering mental health issues. If someone is suffering the chances are, they are going to be less likely to perform work tasks, and it increases the likelihood of them making costly mistakes. It is reported that mental health costs UK organisations £25 billion a year in lost productivity. There is strong evidence that good wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.
In a report by the Mental Health Foundation, when 2000 respondents were asked to list their top priorities for addressing mental health at work, the top three desired actions were the same across the board:
- Create a workplace culture that supports mental health and enables people to seek help when they need it
- Commitment from senior leadership to support mental health and wellbeing in the company
- Clear mental health policies within the company that is implemented at all levels.
Why it’s so important to promote good mental health
It is reported that in the UK, over 6000 people die a year by suicide and having a long-term mental health problem may reduce life expectancy by as many as 21 years. Even though in recent years, awareness of mental health has increased, many people still face challenges getting the help they need and feel discriminated against when they discuss their issues. This is why many people keep their mental health issues hidden until it is too late because they are afraid of other people’s responses and fear they may be treated differently or even lose their jobs.
A lack of support for mental health in the workplace can lead to increased sickness absence, raised staff turnover and a huge loss in productivity. It is so important to have strategies, tools and, initiatives in place to promote good mental health at work and help those who may be suffering. If people feel they are supported, they will be more likely to talk to someone if they are suffering and address their issues early on.
What can employers do?
As an employer, you can help manage and prevent stress by improving conditions at work. Providing mental health first aid training to managers or designated first aiders can help improve mental health in the workplace, reduce absences associated with it and improve productivity. Kays Medical can provide full-day Mental Health First Aid Courses for your business in line with HSE mental health recommendations. Those who partake in the course will be able to; define mental health, identify individuals who are in crisis and may benefit from a contact with a Mental Health First Aid trained individual, communicate effectively with those in crisis, design and implement a basic plan of action for individuals at risk and implement positive changes towards mental health in the workplace.
As part of our occupational health services, Kays Medical can also provide Stress Risk Assessments to HSE management standards. It is essential that workplaces understand the origins of stress and put controls in place to manage it effectively. Many workplace managers find dealing with workplace stress extremely challenging and are often confused by the stress risk assessment that employers have a legal duty to undertake and act on. Kays Medical can provide businesses with these assessments, and our occupational health specialists can help deal with workplace mental health and stress issues effectively and sensitively and deliver an appropriate risk-based solution.
Contact us today to inquire about our services and help promote good mental health in your workplace.