More than 50 employers, including WH Smith and the Post Office, have signed a letter calling for the Government to put mental health on an equal footing with first aid in the workplace.
The letter says the impact of mental ill health in the workplace carries an “astronomical” cost for employers and society. It states: “As an employer, we have a duty of care for our staff and whilst some employers are at the forefront of change and equalising their number of mental health first aiders with physical first aiders, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.”
Mental Health First Aid England, which launched the campaign, says mental first aid at work will save money in the long run and will break the stigma about mental health. The campaign says one in six people of working age will experience mental ill health including depression, anxiety or issues relating to stress.
It estimates that not addressing mental health care costs the UK economy more than £35bn a year from 15.4 million days lost to anxiety, stress and depression.
Fionuala Bonnar, Chief Operating Officer of the campaign, said: “Today’s open letter shows that business leaders clearly recognise the need to support their employees’ mental health in the same way they do their physical health.
“The change in legislation we are calling for will establish a baseline for protecting mental health in the workplace, ensuring no one is left behind. This is just one part of improving approaches to workplace mental health, but it represents an important step forward. Ensuring that first aid support is there for the millions of people who struggle with their mental health every year will make a big difference to how we all think about our health as a whole.”
A recent independent review for Theresa May estimated the cost was three times as high. Since then there have been pledges by government for legislation around mental health at work and by more than 800 employers to take mental health more seriously.