New mental health guidance published by HSE

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, has today announced new first aid guidance on mental health. This updated guidance signals a fundamental shift in how mental health support will now be assessed and provided for in the workplace.

Mental ill-health costs the UK more than £94bn every year, counting treatment, social support costs and the losses to the economy from people who cannot work, according to the OECD.

The first aid guidance located on the HSE website now provides employers with advice on how to support employees experiencing a mental health issue, including
training staff as mental health trained first aiders.

The HSE announcement follows the publication of an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by the CEOs of over 50 leading employers, calling on the government
to uphold its manifesto pledge to change Health and Safety law to include mental health. The letter was the most recent development in the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’
campaign led by Bauer Media Group, MHFA England and Natasha Devon MBE which has attracted over 200,000 signatories on a change.org petition.

Clarifying what the guidance change means to employers, HSE stated, “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has enhanced its first aid guidance to help employers
understand the existing need to consider mental health alongside physical health when undertaking their ‘needs assessment’. There has, however, been no legal change to make mental health first aid-type training mandatory.”

Simon Blake OBE, CEO Mental Health First Aid England commented: “We have worked in close collaboration with HSE to ensure that mental health is explicit in the guidance that employers refer to when assessing their needs around first aid, so we very much welcome today’s announcement. There is no golden bullet when it comes to workplace mental health and mental health first aid training is just one part of the wider strategic approach that we recommend organisations adopt.

“Today’s guidance is an important step towards supporting employees’ mental health but we are clear that equality will only truly be reached when the law demands that every workplace must make provision for mental, as well as physical, first aid. We look forward to achieving legislative change so that Health and Safety regulations are designed to protect our whole health, mental and physical,” he added.

St John Ambulance also welcomed the news, with a spokesperson saying: “We firmly believe that taking care of our own and one another’s mental wellbeing, whether it’s managing stress, depression or another condition, is as important as looking after physical illness. As a practical starting point, business leaders can ensure they have an appropriate number of trained mental health first aiders among their workforces.”

LEAD: Leadership for Equality and Diversity is running a competition in partnership with MSBHelp.co.uk for one business to win a package of services that will help their organisation set excellent mental health procedures that will both support their staff and maintain their legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. Competition closes on Friday 30 November so get your entry today.