Employers have a duty under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. This duty encapsulates mental as well as physical health.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’), in 2020 more than 17.9 million working days were lost due to depression, stress, anxiety and mental health issues.

The HSE has launched its Working Minds campaign to promote good mental health and to prevent and manage work-related stress. The Working Minds campaign promotes the five R’s approach to tackling the risks of work-related stress - 

  • to reach out;
  • recognise;
  • respond;
  • reflect; and 
  • make it a routine. 

The campaign provides employers with essential tools to spot the potential signs of mental ill-health and what steps, or improvements could be made within work practices to protect the wellbeing of staff members. The campaign is calling out for a ‘cultural change’ across the UK.

The messages in the campaign should be considered by all organisations, given all employees have had to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’. The issue of mental health and wellbeing is, however, likely to particularly resonate with providers of frontline care and support, whose staff have had to assist some of the most vulnerable individuals in society through unprecedented times whilst also worrying as to their own and their family’s health.

The pandemic has shone a light on the importance of mental wellbeing and it is clear from the HSE that mental health should be given the same priority as physical health, but everyone recognises that both employers and employees find it far more difficult to talk about. With this and the above in mind, the Working Minds campaign provides a helpful toolkit to enable employers to formulate (or review) their approaches to mental health and work-related stress.