However you do it Let’s talk about Mental ill health

Time to Talk Campaign

The Time to Talk Campaign is aiming to raise the issue of mental ill health at your workplace. We need to encourage employers and employees alike to understand the burden placed on individuals when we fail to ensure that we have robust measures in place. If your employer doesn’t think that this is a real concern, then they should check some of the statistics relating to the cost of failing to deal with mental ill health. Speak to your employer and ask them to look at the impact on their business they can find this information at the links we have forwarded in our toolkit.

Let’s make 2019 the year we deal with the growing issue of Mental Ill Health in our workplaces. It’s time to end the stigma and end the discrimination around mental ill health. The following is designed to assist Safety representatives to ensure we tackle what has become one of the biggest issues facing workers today. The National Safety Committee believe we need to take this issue seriously and we would encourage all our branches to take part in the campaign.

What needs to happen?

Strategy for prevention of work related Mental ill health.

High level commitment to challenging the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. This requires senior management to commit and provide the resources.

A stress management policy. That includes setting up a stress steering group to co-ordinate stress risk assessments. Using management stress standards

A recruitment policy that does not discriminate against those with mental health conditions. The company with nothing to fear will welcome the opportunity to ensure it operates a fair recruitment policy.

A review of sickness absence policies to ensure they do not discriminate against those with mental health conditions. Negotiation of disability passport. Flexible working to support individual needs.

Early access to occupational health services.

Training all staff on mental health (jointly with the BFAWU).

As line managers are expected to deal with workers attendance then it’s essential they have been trained to be aware of issues relating to mental ill health.

The provision of an Employee Assistance programme. Strong anti-bullying and harassment procedures. 

If there are Mental Health First Aiders, a system of support for them, including regular meetings?

The BFAWU safety reps and stewards clearly must be involved both in working with their employer around mental health and supporting members with mental health problems this will help in removing the fear, stigma or any discrimination.

Why An Employer needs to Take Mental ill Health Seriously

Mental ill health is a major cause of sickness absence. Conversely, presenteeism – where people attend work when they are not well enough, potentially slowing recovery – can also be an issue connected with mental ill health, as employees may be reluctant to acknowledge or seek help for a mental health issue. Sickness absence and presenteeism both have a significant impact on productivity. The Government-sponsored Thriving at Work report estimates that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, due to absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.

Responsible employers will take an interest in their employees’ wellbeing regardless of the business benefits, but an employer that takes active steps to protect and promote the mental health of its employees can potentially see an impact in absence levels, retention and productivity. Employers have a duty to protect and not harm employees to remove risks to both physical and mental health to control and eliminate practices that may harm workers and to make adjustments. Not everyone with severe mental ill health will know the symptoms it is essential that workplace practices don’t harm their employees.

Managers need to understand stress, distress and mental illness, and how to minimise these and offer effective support, irrespective of whether or not the poor mental health is related to organisational factors. The organisational costs of poor employee mental health extend beyond the direct cost of absence related to mental ill health to, for example, raised staff turnover and lower productivity. Poor management leading to decreased wellbeing can also result in less tangible indirect impacts including reduced employee morale, low levels of engagement, employee errors and erosion of trust. Reputational damage may also occur in the event of a high-profile employment tribunal claim, as long-term mental illness is a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (see Disability discrimination and mental ill health).

The Government-sponsored Thriving at Work report estimates that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, due to absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.

Promoting good mental health and supporting employees who have a mental health problem can boost employee commitment to and engagement with the organisation, and enhance employee retention, productivity and performance levels.

Sickness absence, staff turnover and employee morale

Whether or not employees have a pre-existing mental health condition, it is clear that workplace practices can impact on their mental wellbeing. Poor workplace practices can lead to significant ill health through stress, burnout and poor management. There is a clear    

financial business case for employers to take positive steps to improve workplace

practices. Office for National Statistics data shows that, in 2016, 15.8 million days were lost because of poor mental health (including stress, depression, anxiety and more serious conditions), accounting for 11.5% of all days lost. However, research has also shown that many employees fear ascribing their absence to mental ill health and will actively cite other reasons.

Being off work for long periods with a mental health problem can affect an individual’s ability to cope with the demands of work when he or she returns to the workplace. Extended periods of work inactivity can worsen the physical symptoms of some mental health conditions. However, at least 70% of employees who take absence due to mental ill health do return to work and 83% of employers say that they do not regret hiring someone

who develops or has a mental health problem. Good return-to-work policies, put into action, are fundamental for successful return to work (see Action plans).

If employers do not promote good mental health and support employees who have a mental health condition effectively, this can result in increased staff turnover. Employees who are stressed or have a mental illness, and who do not feel supported by their employer, are more likely to consider leaving the organisation. It is often the case that employees’ work situation aggravates their mental ill health. As well as considering resigning from the organisation, which could be seen as a natural and healthy reaction to remove themselves from harm, employees with a mental health condition may become disengaged from the organisation if they do not feel supported. If even one employee experiences low morale, this can affect employees within the wider team. Therefore, employers that do not manage mental wellbeing may experience low morale among wider sections of staff.

Lost productivity and “presenteeism”

Lost productivity among employees who continue to work despite having a significant mental health problem is a major component of the total cost of mental ill health at work. Many employees find it difficult to raise the matters that are causing them stress and distress and that can lead to illness, for example a heavy workload, poor work relations, bad management or unclear work roles, because they are fearful of the repercussions.

Many employees with a pre-existing mental health problem prefer not to disclose it to their employer, and continue to work even though their mental health may be impacting on their ability to do their job. The practice of employees continuing to work even though unwell is known as “presenteeism”. Employees in professional jobs and on executive grades are particularly prone to attend work when they are unwell mentally because they are concerned about being stigmatised if they are known to have a mental health problem. In addition, some employees may be concerned that their career could suffer if they take time off sick.

Disability discrimination and mental ill health

Disability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. For a mental illness to fall within the definition of disability, an employee has to show that he or she has a mental or physical impairment; the impairment affects his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities; the adverse impact of the impairment is substantial; and the adverse impact is long term.

Mental impairment covers a wide spectrum relating to mental functioning, including conditions with symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, panic attacks, phobias or unshared perceptions, in addition to mental illnesses.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments in the case of those coming within the definition of having a disability is a unique feature of disability discrimination law, and a failure to comply with the duty constitutes discrimination under s.21 of the Equality Act 2010, unless the employer lacks relevant knowledge of the employee’s disability.

The risk of encountering stigma at work and fear of being discriminated against as a result of having a mental health condition understandably prompts some employees to disguise a problem, attributing their underperformance or absence from work to physical health issues. This makes it hard for people with an illness to receive the support they need in terms of reasonable adjustments and professional help. The onus is on employers to make it possible by exhibiting an explicit and demonstrable zero tolerance approach to stigma, from the top of the organisation. It will then be easier for them to fulfil their legal duties concerning the employment of people with disabilities.

Accidents at work

There is an association between mental ill health and workplace accidents; employees who are stressed, anxious or depressed may find it harder to focus on a task. Employers have a duty of care to manage all potential sources of risk, including those arising from mental ill health.

Corporate governance and reputational risk

Failing to manage employees’ mental health can damage an organisation’s reputation as an employer, particularly if this results in high-profile legal action, for example an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim. Conversely, positioning the organisation as a mentally healthy workplace through the development of positive management and effective wellbeing strategies can strengthen its reputation as a good employer and its corporate responsibility profile

Further information and resources

Any employer who wants to address mental health issues in the workplace needs to look much wider than MHFA, and that is best done in co-operation with unions.

Public Health England and Business in the Community have produced a toolkit for employers on what they should do. This says a good policy will



Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call) Email:


Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.

Mind Infoline

Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday) or text 86463


Mind provides confidential mental health information services.

With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental health problems, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind works in partnership with around 140 local Minds providing local mental health services.

Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line

Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday) Email: online contact form


Provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff. Rethink also runs Rethink services and groups across England.


Telephone: 0300 304 7000 (4:30pm-10:30pm)


Saneline is a national mental health helpline providing information and support to people with mental health problems and those who support them.

The Mix

Telephone: 0808 808 4994 (11am-11pm, free to call) Email: Helpline email form

Crisis Support: Text ‘THEMIX’ to 85258.


The Mix provides judgement-free information and support to young people aged 13-25 on a range of issues including mental health problems. Young people can access the Mix’s support via phone, email, webchat, peer to peer and counselling services.


Telephone: 0800 1111 Website:

ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor for free about anything – no problem is too big or too small.



Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. Elefriends is run

by Mind.

If you’re a carer needing support you can contact all of the above as well as Direct

and the Carers Trust, both of whom are able to provide support and advice on any issues affecting you.

What should I do if I’m supporting someone in a crisis?

If the person seems really unwell, and you are worried about their safety, you should encourage them to seek help.

How to support someone in crisis

Further reading and resources





Training Courses Available dates

17 January 20 Course already fully booked

Types of courses

What are Mental Health First Aiders

Mental health first-aiders are trained to recognise the signs of mental ill health and provide initial support, in much the same way that physical first-aiders provide immediate help in response to an injury or physical illness to prevent the condition worsening.

Introducing mental health first-aid provision in the workplace may mean that employees are able to access help at an early stage, to prevent a mental health issue developing or becoming more serious. It can also promote a workplace culture where people who experience ongoing mental ill health feel supported and able to continue working, or to return to work successfully after periods of absence. Further


You can find out about the many courses offered by the GFTU at the following website,

Northern College25 January
Fox’s Kirkham Min 15 Max 20 Bookings via John Fox
28 Feb No,4 Region Min 15 Max 20
TBC Warburtons Enfield Min 15 Max 20 Booking via Project Worker