In August our Samira Cakali qualified as a Mental Health First Aider (‘MHFA’). In this article she discusses the scheme and how having a Mental Health First Aider could vastly improve your business and have a positive impact on the amount of disability claims that land on your desk. 

Why is mental health awareness in the workplace so important?

Mental ill health is the biggest reason for sickness absence and by far the largest cost to employers across the UK. Investing in staff wellbeing saves money in the long run - workplaces that prioritise mental health have more engaged, productive and loyal employees, who are less likely to need time off sick. 

What does the training involve?

MHFA is a two-day training course. The course is based around a five-step action plan for providing first aid to those suffering with their mental health. The course instructor educates the attendees on a variety of areas of mental health, how to spot the early signs of an issue and shows them how to apply the action plan in each case, which includes preserving life and guiding someone to appropriate sources of help. Areas that are covered are those such as: depression; suicide; substance misuse; anxiety; self-harm; eating disorders; personality disorders; and psychosis. 

What do businesses stand to gain from having a mental health first aider?

Both employers and employees stand to gain significantly from organisations having mental health first aiders. Training in MHFA will give employers the confidence to have these conversations, listen to their employees and therefore be able to understand how their employees feel and what support they need. When employees feel supported and able to discuss their concerns, they will feel better-able to continue to attend work and therefore sickness absence levels are likely to reduce. 

Are claims less likely if you are a MHFA?

The Equality Act 2010 (‘the Act’) places an obligation on employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees who are suffering from a disability under the Act. A mental health condition amounts to a disability under the Act if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. If an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments, it risks facing a disability discrimination claim. 

A MHFA-trained employer will be better able to have conversations with employees suffering from mental health conditions. This in turn will enable the employer and employee to work together to ascertain what reasonable adjustments can be put into place to assist the employee. If the employee subsequently issues a claim for an alleged failure to make reasonable adjustments, the employer will then stand a far greater chance of being able to defend such a claim. However, if an employee feels supported, they are also less likely to issue a claim in the first place.

Further details about MHFA training can be found at www.mhfaengland.org

If you need help and advice regarding mental health in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact Samira or the employment team on 01133 50 40 30 or at samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment and litigation law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide. Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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