Unions and employers call for mental health to be given same weight as physical health

In an open letter signed by unions, employers and charities, Prime Minister Theresa May has been called upon to give mental health the same weight as physical health in the workplace.

19 Nov 2018| News

Photo by Nik Shuliahin

The document, published by Mental Health First Aid England and Bauer Media Group, asked the government to amend health and safety regulations so that workplaces are required to provide for mental as well as physical first aid.

Over 50 high-profile signatories to the letter included unions Unite, NASUWT and Community; major employers like Channel 4, WH Smith and PwC; and charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, Sane and Young Minds.

Reminding the Prime Minister she had vowed to make this change to the law in the Conservative Party Manifesto, the authors said there is a “powerful case” to precede on both economic and humanitarian grounds, and that the idea has wide support among the public.

According to the letter, 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for the government to make mental health first aid mandatory in all workplaces since May 2018.

“Each year, workplace mental health issues cost the UK economy almost £35 billion, with 15.4 million working days lost to work-related stress, not just financial, because left untreated mental ill health impacts a person’s relationships with friends and family and ultimately their quality of life,” the authors pointed out.

”Requiring employers to implement some basic steps to protect an employee’s mental health would reduce these impacts,” they added.

Outlining the expected outcomes of the policy, the letter said it would mean workers have access to a trained member of staff if they are dealing with a mental health issue at work, give employees the right to a mentally healthy environment, and help to break stigmas around mental health.

”Cost cannot be a reason for objections because in the long run it is inevitable that making mental health first aid in the workplace mandatory will save money,” they said.