A revolution in workplace first aid: are you ready?
24 October 2018
Mental health costs employers far more than physical injuries, yet trained mental health first aiders are still disappointingly rare.
According to government estimates, around 15 per cent of employees have a mental health condition. And, each year, around 300,000 people with long-term mental health issues lose their job – much higher than the rate for people with physical health conditions.
This costs the UK economy between £73billion and £97billion a year. Yet support for employees with mental health issues still lags far behind what employers provide for those needing physical first aid.
Both The Lancet and professional services firm Deloitte have published findings demonstrating an overwhelmingly positive average return on investment ranging from £4.20 to £9.98 per £1 spent by employers and governments when supporting employees’ mental health.1
“Employers who introduce mental health first aiders and focus on improving the wellbeing of staff see both morale and productivity improve.”
Long-term sickness absence often exacerbates an employee’s mental ill health and is a significant cost to employers. But in a culture where employees who are struggling to feel more comfortable raising an issue, employers can provide appropriate interventions and support earlier.
At a cost of just a few hundred pounds, two-day mental health first-aid courses give attendees an invaluable insight into how to spot signs that colleagues may need support, and how to manage the situation effectively.
Once trained, they’re also ideally placed to help management and human resources create a more open environment through improved communications. This helps prevent mental health problems from developing and reduces the need for, and cost of, associated long-term sickness absence.
With such clear benefits to employers, why haven’t more organisations voluntarily invested in mental health first aid?
Although the conversation is happening, and attitudes are starting to shift, the subject of mental health is all too often still considered taboo, and law reform would tackle that head on.
Current regulations require employers to satisfy various obligations in respect of equipment and facilities in the workplace and what should be done if an employee becomes ill or injured at work, but are outdated in dealing with mental ill health.
A legal requirement to invest in mental health first-aiders would lead to a step-change in the mindset of both employees and employers, and would better equip businesses to create a healthier and more productive and effective workforce.
We’re calling on the government to take the first positive steps by making mental health first-aiders in the workplace mandatory. Please visit our website to join the call for change and sign our petition today.
1All facts and statistics in the opening paragraphs of this article are from ‘Thriving At Work: The Stevenson Farmer review of mental health and employers’
By Jodie Hill, Solicitor and Managing Director of employment and HR specialist legal firm Thrive Law