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Ernst & Young pledges to tackle workplace mental health issues

Ernst & Young (EY) has signed a pledge to train staff to recognise and support colleagues’ mental health needs, among a raft of other health initiatives.

The company of more than 12,000 staff is the first professional services firm to sign up to eight pledges laid out by the Government in its Public Health Responsibility Deal.

The agreement includes a commitment from employers to ensure staff can access healthy eating options, staff health checks and use accredited occupational health providers.

It will also enable staff to receive training as Mental Health First Aiders, a system which encouraged colleagues to act as a first point of call for staff with mental health difficulties.

Mental Health First Aid England CEO Poppy Jaman, encouraged other large employers to follow EY’s example.

“I am extremely encouraged to see large employers such as EY taking significant steps to protect its employee’s mental health and wellbeing, including the roll out of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) within the organisation,” she said.

“The company’s education programme is substantial and through the introduction of MHFA training, a large number of staff will be equipped and skilled to recognise the early signs and symptoms of poor mental health and be able to guide themselves and others to get the right support, at the earliest possible stage.

“EY is demonstrating that it is taking the mental health of its employees seriously and we hope that other businesses will learn from this excellent example and implement similar whole systems approach to health within their organisations.”

EY has named the initiative Health EY. EY’s UK and Ireland managing partner for client service, and partner sponsor of Health EY Steve Wilkinson, said the initiative would tackle the “the stigma of mental health, which is often viewed as the last workplace taboo”.

“The introduction of mental health first aiders and a buddy system will supplement our existing employee networks, providing a great way to get people talking about an issue that affects over one in six people in the UK,” he said.

Health minister Earl Howe applauded EY for “putting employee health, including mental health, firmly on their HR agenda”.

“Thoughtful, well informed management in respect of employees’ mental and physical health can produce real benefits.

“Besides reduced sickness absence, those benefits include better staff engagement, improved productivity, and reduced staff turnover,” he said.

The Government estimates that mental health conditions cost UK businesses £8.4 billion in sickness absence and a further £15.1 billion in lost productivity.

More than 635 companies have signed the voluntary Government Public Health Responsibility Deal since it was introduced in 2011.