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Business & Economy

Firms reiterate mental health support after changes to stress guidelines

North East companies have reaffirmed their commitment to providing mental health support after a Government agency issued new work-related stress guidelines.

The Health and Safety Executive has revealed new criteria for investigating anxiety in the workplace, which includes on-site company investigations and enforcement action.

According to research by the body, stress is the second most commonly reported cause of UK occupational ill health, accounting for 44 per cent of all work-related cases and 57 per cent of all working days lost to ill health.

Now, on World Mental Health Day (Thursday, October 10), organisations have reiterated their support to helping workers.

Emily Pearson, managing director and founder of Our Minds Work, a corporate mental health company based in Gateshead, said: “Maybe the tide is finally turning.

“It has been an employers’ legal duty to prevent work-related stress by carrying out a stress risk assessment and taking action on it since 1999, so the legislation is far from new,” added Emily, pictured left.

“However, the Health and Safety Executive now seems to be taking a stronger stance toward employers who are not complying with legislation.

“Employers have a duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of staff and under Health and Safety Executive legislation must prevent work-related stress by doing a stress risk assessment and acting on it.

“Preventing excessive pressure caused by the workplace should be a part of every company culture.”

The Health and Safety Executive’s Go Home Healthy campaign, launched in 2017, saw the organisation advise businesses that health-focused inspectors would be carrying out inspections focusing on dust, musculoskeletal and work-related stress.

It is now closing in on firms who are non-compliant with the legislation and causing psychological harm to employees.

“I hope it quickly becomes a reason for businesses to get the prevention and early intervention of work-related stress embedded into their culture and that we finally start to see the statistics begin to drop,” added Emily.

Newcastle-based law firm Muckle LLP is another company focusing on employees’ mental health.

Nicola Leyden, HR director, said: “We’ve had professional support to formulate our wellbeing strategy, initially by introducing the Time to Change pledge, a national programme developed to address stigma in the workplace around mental health.”

Alison Corner, employee engagement manager for Northumbrian Water Group, added: “With ethical as one of our core company values, it’s really important that we are supporting and protecting our employees’ mental health.”

The Health and Safety Executive will consider investigating concerns about work-related stress where:

  • There is evidence staff are experiencing work-related stress or stress-related ill health, (i.e. that it is not an individual case)
  • The Health and Safety Executive would expect concerns about work-related stress to have been raised already with the employer, and for the employer to have been given sufficient time to respond accordingly