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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Amend health and safety regulations for employers to include mental health

Last updated: 11:02pm 27 November 2018

We will amend health and safety regulations so that employers provide appropriate first aid training and needs-assessment for mental health, as they currently do for risks to physical health…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.57

Our verdict

The health and safety regulations for employers are outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The body overseeing implementation and adherence to the law is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE toolbox of advice for workplaces highlights 15 areas which may be “relevant to your workplace”, all of which relate to physical risks and none to mental health and safety.

This policy is a pledge to alter the regulations so that employers are required to provide first aid training and needs-assessment for mental health in the same way that is required for physical health.

In October 2017, the government published an independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer. The review recommended:

  • “that the Health and Safety Executive revise its guidance to raise employer awareness of their duty to assess and manage work-related mental ill-health.”
  • “that the Health and Safety Executive builds on its risk assessment guidance…by highlighting how these actions will help employers deliver key parts of the mental health core standards.”

The government response accepted the recommendations and agreed to implement them.

Implementing the recommendations from the Stevenson-Farmer review is at least a gesture towards fulfilment of this pledge, but the manifesto highlights first aid training for mental health, which is not specifically included in the report’s recommendations. Also, encouraging changes to HSE guidance does not constitute amending health and safety regulations, as promised in the manifesto. Guidance has no legal force, whereas amended regulations could compel employers to comply.

To move this to ‘done’ we would expect to see legislative changes requiring compliance from employers. Until then, this remains ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.

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