The Labour party promises to overhaul the way mental health is managed. Here’s how

According to shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, there’s been an increase in mental ill health under the Tories and it is costing Britain £23 billion per year. 

He writes: “Stress, depression and anxiety account for 17 million lost workdays every year. There are now three million people out of work for long-term sickness, almost half of whom suffer with mental health problems. The cost in lost economic output, if nothing changes and the Conservatives are given another five years, will total £115 billion…Our sick society is holding back Britain’s economy.”

The Labour party says it will change the approach to mental health care if it wins on July 4. What does this mean for employers?

The legal duty on employers to protect the mental wellbeing of their staff are based on a number of regulations. The first is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which sets out the general duties of employers and employees to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers in the workplace, including their mental health. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess the risks to their employees’ health and safety, including risks to their mental health, and take measures to control those risks. It places a legal duty on employers to protect employees from stress at work. The Equality Act 2010 (which applies only to Great Britain) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of disability, which includes mental health conditions that have a substantial long-term effect on daily life. Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to support employees with mental health conditions and cannot dismiss staff on the basis that they are struggling with their mental health. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to a worker’s role and hours if they are having mental health issues before considering other options.

Beyond the regulations, supporting workplace mental wellbeing has a number of benefits for companies. It raises productivity and staff retention because healthy, happy employees are less likely to be absent and more prone to be productive. It reduces ‘presenteeism’ where employees are present but unable to fully function. It improves reputation because employers with a strong mental health policy are able to attract more and better candidates.

Mental health policies under Labour

The Labour party has committed to expanding the mental health workforce with at least 8,500 more staff over the next five years. It plans to provide specialist mental health professionals in all schools, and to invest in open-access mental health hubs in every community as part of its Young Futures programme in order to increase the availability of mental health support across the country. 

Labour has also stated it would modernise the Mental Health Act, improve employment support for disabled people and speed up the Access to Work scheme, ensuring that people with mental health difficulties get the right employment support. 

The Labour’s manifesto states: “Labour will modernise legislation to give patients greater choice, autonomy, enhanced rights and support, and ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect throughout treatment.”

Streeting notes that all the mental health policies would be fully funded through closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest.

How these workplace policies will be implemented and regulated remains to be seen if the Labour Party makes it to #10 on July 4, a scenario that is increasingly likely. It’s time to start developing or improving a mental health at work plan now.

Compliance and the UK General Election – Special Webinar

Every sector could be impacted and every area of compliance is likely to be reviewed by the next government. From overhauls of financial services regulation, reviews of data protection law, closer alignment with EU regulations and an expansion of health and safety protections, the next parliament will see compliance at the centre of the regulatory agenda.

With everything from whistleblowing reform to overhauls of corporate governance, new employment rights like menopause leave and expanded equal pay rules, alongside crackdowns on tax evasion and expansion of the money laundering regulations, organisations large and small should prepare for the outcome of the general election.

This webinar will cover:

  • What the main parties are pledging on key compliance areas
  • Potential changes to legislation including the Equality Act, sexual harassment and employment rights
  • Expected legislation on AML, bribery, sanctions, fraud and economic crime
  • Possible expansion of regulations around GDPR, AI and health and safety
  • Preparing your organisation for future regulatory changes and new requirements