Mental First Aiders in the Workplace

Your business should have a trained first aider, and someone with responsibility for first-aid arrangements. This role is usually based on the medical side of first aid, however recent developments by campaigners and in Parliament are showing a case for mental first aiders in the workplace too.

A recent cross-party group of MPs has raised a motion for this change. As Luciana Berger MP argued in the commons on the 17th January 2019, the 1974 Health and Safety Act ensures that every large workplace has someone trained in medical first aid – an accepted and established part of every workplace in the UK. So, why is this not also the case for trained mental health first aiders?

Following a debate, there was a clear win for this motion, and the view that first aid regulations need to be updated to ensure that mental health is treated equally to physical health in the workplace.

What does this mean for your business?

First Aid regulations for your business are flexible and guided by your individual business and its needs. The HSE states that:

“HSE cannot tell you what provision you should make for first aid. You, as an employer, are best placed to understand the exact nature of your workplace and decide what you need to provide.

First aid provision must be ‘adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’. This means that you must provide sufficient first aid equipment (first aid kit), facilities and personnel at all times.”

You must do a first aid assessment to decide on the level of risks for your workplace and what you need to put in place – trained first aiders, first aid kits, training for staff and so on – to ensure that your workplace remains a safe place to work.

So should you add mental health to this assessment? The HSE suggests that you should consider this even before the outcome of January’s motion, supplying advice and guidance on how to proceed.

What next?

If you believe that this is applicable to your business you can consider a number of actions to manage mental ill health in your workplace, including providing information or training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes.

I am qualified in both Health and Safety and HR so perfectly placed to help your business should you have any problems or queries. Contact me today if you need help with your first aid requirements.

Anxiety in the Workplace 

Anxiety in the workplace is becoming increasingly common, as shown by new research from the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Rates of moderate to extreme anxiety and depression among employees have soared by 30.5% since records began in 2013. New data from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) also shows that, in 2017, around 526,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. In the same year, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related ill-health cases.

This is a huge, growing, problem for employers. How can you recognise the signs of anxiety in your employees? And how can you promote positive mental health in your workplace?

What is Anxiety?

Mind explains anxiety as  “what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.  It is a natural human response, however prolonged feelings of anxiety have a negative impact on people’s thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.”

Anxiety in the workplace may be caused by issues such as workload, performance or conflict with colleagues. Other factors, outside the workplace, may include relationship, family or debt problems, which will also affect an employee’s performance at work and attendance levels.

How can I support my staff?

Look out for signs that an employee is suffering from anxiety. These can include:

  • taking more time off work
  • becoming more emotional or over-reacting to what others say
  • feeling negative, dwelling on negative experiences
  • starting to behave differently, feeling restless and not being able to concentrate.

If you believe that a member of staff may be feeling increasingly anxious at work, address these issues as early as possible. You, or the employee’s Manager, should have a conversation in a private place with the employee, ensuring that there are no interruptions.

Ask open questions to find out how the person is honestly feeling, allowing them a lot of time to answer and not pushing them for a response. Try to put yourself in the others person’s position and see things from their perspective to get them to open up to you about any worries or fears. It’s also useful to make arrangements for a follow up meeting to review the situation.

What next?

Staff with good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work. Take steps to support the mental health of your staff and start creating a workplace where they feel able to communicate safely and easily with their manager can help to reduce the impact of mental ill health in your business.

This could include

  • identifying why you are committed to promoting positive mental health and what your objectives are
  • planning a range of activities and key messages to educate staff and managers and remove any stigma associated with mental ill health.
  • putting support processes in place for staff experiencing mental ill health, such as training managers in mental health and having named mental health champions in the workplace
  • creating a mental health policy and reviewing existing policies
  • ensuring that you and your senior managers champion mental health awareness and act as role models

Other ways you can support employees can be found on the Anxiety UK website.

If you need any help implementing these actions or have a problem with growing anxiety in workplace, contact me today to find out more


How do you manage stress at work?

There is a growing awareness around stress in the workplace, as employers know that healthy, happy employees contribute more to their business. How can you recognise stress in your workforce? What steps can you put in place to tackle it? Read our guide to find out more.

What is stress?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. This excessive pressure can cause anxiety and depression as well as other related illnesses such as heart disease, back pain and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Do I need to do anything about stress in my business?

Apart from the fact that healthier employees contribute more to your business than those that are stressed and unhappy, there is also a legal obligation to look after your staff. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

Also, if one of your employees suffers from stress related ill-health and the court decides your business is responsible and could have taken steps to prevent it, you could be found to be negligent with no limit to the compensation your employee could get. It is also possible to be found guilty of unfair dismissal if you dismiss an employee because of stress (unless you can show that you acted reasonably).

What signs of stress can I look out for?

A change in behaviour is one of the key symptoms of stress. If one of your employees becomes more withdrawn, or more prone to outbursts, is suffering a loss of motivation or starts taking more time off, these can be signs of stress. Work with your management team to recognise these symptoms early and think about whether they can be linked to pressures of work. Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes.

What are the main causes of stress?

It’s important to know what can cause stress, as well as how it can appear in employees, to put in place safeguards to stop situations occurring that can create stressful situations or to allow your tam to put policies in place to mitigate the effects of such situations. It doesn’t mean creating a pressure-free environment, as positive pressure can be very beneficial, but making sure your employees do not become overloaded or feel out of control.

Acas defines the main causes of stress as

  • Demands: employees often become overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do
  • Control: employees can feel disaffected and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work
  • Support: levels of sick absence often rise if employees feel they cannot talk to managers about issues that are troubling them
  • Relationships: a failure to build relationships based on good behaviour and trust can lead to problems related to discipline, grievances and bullying
  • Role: employees will feel anxious about their work and the organisation if they don’t know what is expected of them
  • Change: change needs to be managed effectively or it can lead to uncertainty and insecurity.

Employers should assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace.

Is stress a problem in your workplace? Do you have the policies in place to tackle these issues before they become a problem? Get advice from HR That Helps

Managing Mental Health Problems in Your Employees

Taking care of your mental health and ‘self-care’ is an important topic at the moment, especially as the scale of mental health problems in the UK are growing. It’s something that needs to be seriously considered by people and businesses – but what happens when a long-term mental health problem with one of your employees is costing your business money?

If there is a long-term illness that is causing productivity problems in your business, you need to ensure that your employee is being treated fairly, your HR management processes are working and your managers are dealing with the matter in as risk-free manner as possible.

However, what do you do if you find that the mental health problem is resulting in a long-term absence and causing serious problems for your company? Is it time to dismiss the employee?

If you do find that this line has been crossed, you need dedicated and experienced HR support to help both employers and managers work through this problem.

What do you need to think about?

If you believe that the affected employee has a long-term mental health problem that may cause them to not return to work within a reasonable period, there may be grounds for a dismissal based on their incapability.

Do you consider the employee to be incapable, on reasonable grounds? Can you wait any longer for the employee to recover? Factors to take into account include the size of your business and how much difficulty and disruption the absence is causing, balancing the mental health problem of your employee against your business needs.

If you do want to consider dismissing an employee on these grounds, there are several steps to take. You must:

  • undertake an investigation
  • seek an up to date medical report on the employee’s state of health
  • fully consult with your employee
  • discuss possibilities to help the employee return to work
  • consider if alternative work is available
  • carefully review any evidence given to you by the employee and take this into account

Want to find out more about mental health problems in the workplace? Contact us today.





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