The HSE has launched a new mental health campaign aimed at smaller businesses: “working minds”. What’s happening and should you get involved?

Mental health is equal to safety. The HSE is concerned that small businesses are not on board with the need to manage psychological risks, despite the mental health crisis which has emerged throughout the pandemic. It wants to see mental health given as much thought as safety in the workplace.

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Mental health issues now top the list of reasons for sickness absence in a poll about self-reported ill-health. The number of working days lost due to stress, anxiety or depression based on these statistics is 17 million per year. The charity Mind also reports that its survey shows two in five employees’ mental health has worsened during the pandemic.

Note. This is not to say that all poor mental health affecting employees is due to their work, but a proportion will be work-related, and regardless of the causes, employers need to manage ill health sympathetically.

The HSE aims to change things in small businesses by making owners, managers and staff aware of the signs of work-related stress and outlining simple steps to tackle it. The online resources are arranged as 5 Rs:

Reach out, Recognise, Respond, Reflect, and make it Routine.

Advice: If a member of staff has a diagnosis of a mental health condition likely to last twelve months or more you must comply with the Equality Act 2010. To identify what’s needed, a good place to start is to ask the employee to talk about it in confidence. We recommend a stress risk assessment is carried out on all staff at regular intervals. (Click here for your free Stress Management Checklist)

Advice: Mind reports that fears about job security have been a major cause of the increase in poor mental health. Clear information to staff about planned changes will help. If major changes are on the cards, engage with HR professionals at an early stage. (Safety Aide supports their clients by providing them with a Stress and Wellbeing Policy)

Advice: Create a risk assessment to review the stress of different job roles and find ways to make working lifeA less worrying. (Safety Aide provides a Stress Risk assessment to their clients)

The campaign highlights simple steps you can implement to improve mental health. Create a stress risk assessment, carry out regular stress management assessment(s) and add a Stress and Wellbeing policy to your health and safety policy.  Show that you support staff suffering from poor mental health and be compassionate in the management of change.

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