Business leaders have written to the Prime Minister to call for a change in the law on mental health in the workplace.

They signed an open letter to Theresa May asking her to honour a manifesto pledge to make mental health first aid mandatory in all workplaces.

More than 50 bosses from well-known companies including WH Smith, Ford and Royal Mail have called for mental health to be given the same status as physical health.

It comes after the Conservatives said in the run up to the last general election that they would amend health and safety regulations so both physical and mental health would be treated equally.

Mental Health First Aid gives employees training to help recognise the signs that a colleague might be having a mental health issue and so they can help signpost them to the appropriate support.

Nicola Neath, chair of BACP’s workplace division, said a lot more needed to be done to ensure action was taken on the complex issue of workplace mental health.

She said:

“It’s good that they are raising this issue and I welcome this conversation. But there has to be a range of different actions on employee mental health. We’re still having the same conversations we have been having since 2013. What we need is systemic change supported by the government.

Specialised professionals can help

“If workplaces invest in mental health support it can boost their productivity, baseline creativity and more. There are specialised professionals who can help, whether that’s through internal teams, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), private practitioners or proper provision within the NHS.

“Where an organisation can, they should be able to direct an employee to the NHS. Every employee should know that the signs are if a colleague is having a mental health problem, and the HR department and managers should know what to do about this. Mental Health First Aiders may be one part of a systemic approach, and there has to be somewhere for them to be signposting people to.

“If companies can support their employees mental health they will see massive benefits, from increases in productivity to people’s development. An employee may get that massive promotion, that they previously wouldn’t have thought of applying for.

“Some companies are doing very good work when it comes to their employees mental health, such as developing internal processes and responses that support good mental health at work and well as responding when there are difficulties. We need to understand what is working, look at all the different interventions that are being used and get a better understanding of what companies are doing. We need businesses to realise that this is a specialised professional area, and that at BACP we are the experts.”

Find out more about BACP’s workplace division.