An Open Letter to the Prime Minister signed by more than 50 leaders of some of Britain’s biggest employers including PwC, Royal Mail, WH Smith, Mace, Ford and Thames Water is today calling on the Government to prioritise its manifesto pledge to amend health and safety legislation to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing.
Signed by industry leaders from across business, education and mental health this call comes at a time when one in six people of working age will experience mental ill health including depression, anxiety or issues relating to stress. With over 28 million people in work in England, this represents nearly 5 million people. Mental health issues are also estimated to cost the UK economy almost £35 billion every year and 15.4 million working days are lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
Fionuala Bonnar, Chief Operating Officer, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England commented,
“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."
Paul Keenan, CEO, Bauer Media UK & European Radio, said,
“The impact of neglecting mental ill health in the workplace is two-fold: both an economic and human cost which we have the opportunity to alleviate.
“By investing in the physical and mental health of our people we will not only unlock human potential in the workplace but reduce astronomical costs to the economy. It is imperative the Government takes notice of U.K. employers and the public who are standing up and calling for change.”
The Open Letter follows the delivery of a petition of over 200,000 public signatures to 10 Downing Street as part of a mental health campaign called ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ founded by Natasha Devon MBE, MHFA England and Bauer Media, which has received cross-party backing. MPs from across the political spectrum originally showed their support for the issue by signing an Early Day Motion tabled by Norman Lamb MP in October 2016.
Stephen Clarke, CEO, WHSmith, said,
“At WH Smith, our employees’ mental health is of equal importance to their physical health. Every one of our 14,000 employees has access to mental health support and we are proud to have the same number of Mental Health First Aiders across our business as we do physical health first aiders.
“We are calling for this legislative change, alongside many other leading employers, as we firmly believe that everyone should have access to first aid support for their mental health regardless of where they work.”