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Hot topic: Mental and physical health parity, part two

Business leaders and unions have called for the government to ensure parity of treatment for mental health in the workplace through obliging employers to offer mental health first aid, with parliament’s backbench business committee announcing this debate will be held this week

Could such a policy boost treatment of mental illness at work? Or are there other factors to consider?

Arwen Makin, senior solicitor at ESPHR UK, says:

"Mental health remains a taboo subject for some employers, who are frightened about saying the wrong thing and are unsure about how to even begin addressing an employee’s mental health. The irony is that for some mental health conditions a supportive employer can make all the difference to an employee’s treatment and recovery.

While mental health first aid training may seem to be putting an additional burden on already stretched employers, an improved understanding of mental health generally and how to handle an emergency is likely to benefit the entire business.

It is important to remember that anyone, from the most junior person to senior management, can suffer with mental health problems from time to time. Open dialogue and early intervention can often prevent a situation from escalating, and a little consideration in the short term can reap substantial rewards when it comes to long-term loyalty."

Sarah Barnes, HR director at Bauer Media, says:

"Each year workplace mental health issues cost the UK economy almost £35 billion, with 15.4 million working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. If left untreated mental ill health affects a person’s relationships and their quality of life. So why not try to alleviate this problem?

At Bauer Media we have trained more than 20 people to become qualified mental health first aiders and aim to have one in each of our locations by the end of 2019. It’s important to understand the role of the mental health first aider: they don’t provide advice but adhere to a clear process to support the individual. Confidentiality is critical and communicating the role of the mental health first aider to the business is essential."

Read the first part of this hot topic