• International Workplace
  • 23 May 2018

Mental health first aiders in the workplace should be compulsory, argues solicitor

Mental health first aiders should be compulsory in the same way a physical first aider is, solicitor and managing director of employment boutique Thrive Law has said as she launches a campaign to compel employers to provide a mental health first-aider for their staff.

Jodie Hill has posted a petition on calling for the law to be amended. Under current law the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 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 is injured at work. 

Says Hill:

“It’s clear from these Regulations that employers must take first aid seriously and make a commitment to it in all workplaces. The question must be asked as to why employers aren’t generally encouraged to extend the same attitude towards mental health first aid, as they do for physical first aid.”

The petition, which is available to read and sign here, argues that, by skilling employees as Mental Health First Aiders, employers can:

  • give employees the tools to keep themselves and their colleagues healthy;
  • encourage employees to access support as soon as it’s needed, for a faster recovery;
  • empower employees with a long-term mental health issue or disability to thrive in the workplace;
  • stop preventable health issues arising by building a supportive culture around mental health; and
  • embed positive, long-term cultural change across their business through robust policies.

Hill says: 

“Training a member of staff in mental health first aid can help ensure that there is someone in the office who can recognise the signs of mental ill health as soon as an employee develops them. Having someone in the office trained in mental health first aid also helps to remove the stigma surrounding the subject and create an open environment for those who are suffering to open up.

“By taking these simple but positive steps to improve the management of mental ill health, employers can save at least 30% of the cost of lost production and staff turnover. It is even thought that by spending just 80p on health promotion and intervention, £4 can be saved in costs due to absenteeism, temporary staff and presenteeism. But perhaps more importantly, employers can ensure that an employee with a mental health issue can be helped through what is likely to be one of the most difficult times in their life, whilst remaining in a supportive workplace.

“I strongly believe this change in the law will have a huge beneficial impact of employers and employees as well as the UK economy.”