Is mental health on your workplace agenda?

Looking after the mental health and wellbeing of your staff is crucial to the success of any business
Jill Gordon

MENTAL health issues arise across all forms of media outlets, virtually on a daily basis. But strategies and budgets are either on hold and out of date, or filtering through our current political impasse, getting smaller by the year.

As a business owner, this area must be paid attention to. For if you employ people, not only is the mental health and wellbeing of your staff crucial to the success of your business, there are legal and moral obligations.

So is mental health on your agenda? Is it a priority?

The HSENI provides information about mental wellbeing at work online. When considering health and safety, do you think of risk assessments, safe work environments, training for staff, or the prevention of accidents to name a few?

Legally, there is an obligation to address mental wellbeing in the workplace, especially work-related stress, which can lead to mental ill health if not dealt with correctly.

According to the HSENI, employers have a legal duty to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities (under the Management of Health and Safety at work regulations (NI) 2000) and to take measures to control that risk (under the Health and Safety at work (NI) order 1978). The HSENI also advises on the moral case for addressing stress in the workplace;

Small business owners are now more aware that sometimes aspects of their business can make staff ill, and that it is incumbent on the business owner to put in place systems to ensure the health of their workers.

It therefore makes good business sense to look at the current cost of an issue such as stress and work out how much it would cost to tackle it and the financial benefits as an outcome.

What benefits are there, for a business to invest in the mental wellbeing of staff? Some are:

1 Reduce the possible loss of a person's expertise.

2 Reduce possible delay of production.

3 Reduce the financial cost to cover sickness absence pay.

4 Reduce cot of new or temporary staff and recruitment.

5 Reduce overtime.

6 Reduce risk of possible loss of business reputation or contracts and any legal costs with civil claims.

When I approach businesses, especially SME's, to address the above, I have found the responses negative and frustrating. I'm told businesses don't have time, don't have the budget for this, or other things are more important. Brexit is on everyone's mind as we approach uneasy times and the start of the new financial year, but what effect will this have on your people?

Ask yourself, what is the risk of putting the mental health and wellbeing of staff on the back burner?

A willingness to spend on mental health awareness, promoting good mental health in the workplace, preventing work related stress and having a specific mental health strategy is priceless when it comes to people. Staff aren't robots. They will experience difficult times in life, which may impact on their work. People matter. People are essential for any business. They need investment to see personal and professional benefits.

There are many organisations and individuals across Northern Ireland who will help you as a business owner to ensure you are doing all you can for staff. It doesn't really matter who you choose - the important piece of advice is to take action.

:: Jill Gordon ( is a business and therapeutic Neuro Linguistic Programming coach. Web:

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