Mental health campaign launched to focus on work-related stress

Out-Law News | 24 Nov 2021 | 2:22 pm | 1 min. read

The British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a campaign aimed at helping businesses recognise the signs of work-related stress and make tackling issues routine.

The ‘Working Minds’ campaign is specifically targeting six million workers in small businesses, but the HSE is also calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces to ensure psychological risks are treated in the same way as physical risks in health and safety risk management.

The HSE said more than 17 million working days were lost in the UK last year due to stress, anxiety, or depression. It cited recent research by charity Mind which suggested that two in five employees’ mental health had worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campaign highlights the triggers of stress, and reminds employers that their legal duty to assess, and mitigate, workplace risk extends not only to potential hazards and physical safety but encompasses psychological risk too. Employers have a legal duty to promote, support and sustain good mental health in the workplace.

Metcalfe Katherine

Katherine Metcalfe

Legal Director

This is, fundamentally, a matter of business performance and moral leadership in a challenging global economy

Regulatory law expert Katherine Metcalfe of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “The need for organisations to take the mental health and wellbeing of their workers seriously is not just a matter of regulatory compliance. This is, fundamentally, a matter of business performance and moral leadership in a challenging global economy.”

‘Working Minds’ centres around five steps for employers to support employees’ mental health: reach out, recognise, respond, reflect, and make it routine. It provides information and guidance to businesses, and the HSE has also partnered with a number of organisations including Mind and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to help highlight the issues.

The launch of the campaign follows the publication of international standard ISO 45003, published in June 2021. ISO 45003 sets out internationally agreed guidelines and practical guidance for managing psychosocial risk within an occupational health and safety management system, to prevent work-related injury and ill health and promote wellbeing at work.

Metcalfe said ISO 45003 coupled with ‘Working Minds’ gave employers a real opportunity to make significant progress in managing employee wellbeing.

“The mental health of the workforce has been moving up the boardroom agenda in recent years in recognition of the fact that people are often an organisation’s greatest asset; this has been particularly so in light of the impact on people of the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions on their daily lives,” Metcalfe said.

“Organisations should take the opportunity presented by the launch of the “Working Minds” campaign, together with the publication of ISO45003, to assess where they currently stand in terms of the risks and mitigations they have in place in relation to both mental and physical wellbeing, benchmarking this against the standards set out in ISO45003 and putting in place appropriate action plans tailored to their particular business,” Metcalfe said.