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Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:11 pm on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Wavertree 1:11 pm, 17th January 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
notes that the UK is facing a mental health crisis;
further notes that, according to the Independent Review into Mental Health in the Workplace 2017 commissioned by the Prime Minister, each year 300,000 people with long-term mental health conditions lose their job;
recognises that Centre for Mental Health research shows presenteeism from mental health is estimated to cost the economy £15.1 billion per annum;
acknowledges this same research shows it costs the economy £8.4 billion per annum for mental health absenteeism;
considers that a recent poll by OnePoll found that 38 per cent of people reported being stressed about work;
observes that the Health and Safety Act 1974 made it a legal necessity for workplaces to train someone in medical first aid;
and calls on the Government to change this law via secondary legislation to provide clarity that an employer’s first aid responsibilities cover both physical and mental health and to add a requirement for workplaces to train mental health first aiders.

It really is a pleasure to speak in support of this motion, alongside its co-sponsors Norman Lamb and Johnny Mercer. The application for this debate was supported by more 60 Members from all parts of the House, and we are very grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for allocating time for our discussion today.

Following the particularly challenging moments that this House has experienced over the last few days, today’s debate is a salutary reminder that the work of this Parliament goes on, and that we are capable of debating in a constructive and collegiate fashion. Our motion addresses a real and pressing need to support people affected by mental ill health. Our argument is simple. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 ensured that every large workplace has someone trained in medical first aid, and that is now an accepted and established part of every office, factory, warehouse, hotel and anywhere else that people work; so why not a trained mental health first aider in every workplace? We want to change the Health and Safety Act via secondary legislation so that an employer’s responsibility explicitly covers the mental health as well as the physical health of their employees. This debate is a true cross-party initiative, calling on the Government to make a small change to the law that would constitute a step towards establishing parity of esteem—real equality between physical and mental health.