First psychological health and safety standard awarded to UK business

The British Standards Institution has awarded its first certificate for psychological health and safety at work.

Facilities management company EMCOR UK has become the first company to receive a seal of approval for the scheme.

It certifies that the company has taken action to remove and minimise factors that have a negative impact on mental health; consulted with the workforce on them; got the commitment of leadership and created a system to monitor and continue to improve. 

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Mental Health First Aid England has welcomed the introduction of the standard.

Speaking to HR magazine, CEO Simon Blake said: “It recognises the need for parity when it comes to the mental health and physical health of employees.”

Kate Field, global head of health, safety and wellbeing at BSI, added that the scheme will help companies show workers and stakeholders that they are committed to prioritising health, safety and wellbeing, at a critical point in the talent market.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Workers are demanding that their employers take sustained, proactive action to enhance their wellbeing by creating a culture of trust.

“Organisations not listening, and not taking action, are losing their best talent as the great resignation gains momentum.”

The scheme, she added, can help provide reassurance.

“Choosing to certify against BSI’s latest scheme can provide much needed reassurance to workers and other stakeholders, including clients, customers and shareholders, that an organisation is committed to prioritising their people and supporting their mental health.”

However, Amy Edmondson, the Novartis professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, warned employers not to prioritise standards over strategy.

“I think introducing guidelines is very helpful. Standards may be at risk of excess bureaucracy that distracts from the original goal,” Edmondson told HR magazine.

“Wellbeing and mental health are vital for effective participation in knowledge work – especially when the work is collaborative, or requires conversation and debate, or sharing expertise.  

“When people lack psychological safety at work, authentic conversations suffer, and employees’ mental health is at risk, because of the stress of self-monitoring – the internal process of figuring out what is and isn’t safe to speak up about.”

Similarly, Blake reiterated that employers would need to embed mental wellbeing support in every aspect of the workplace for the standard to be effective.

“Training employees in evidence based Mental Health First Aid is just one part of creating a mentally healthy and psychologically safe workplace – but this cannot be done in isolation,” he said.

“Staff trained as Mental Health First Aiders must have the right support structures in place and be given the tools to confidently help their colleagues, as well as protect their own mental health, in line with MHFA England guidance.”