New guide gives employers in Leeds the facts they need on mental health

Mindful Employer Leeds co-ordinator Martha Clowes and Nicola Gallear, from the MindWell website.
Mindful Employer Leeds co-ordinator Martha Clowes and Nicola Gallear, from the MindWell website.
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Experts in Leeds have put their heads together to produce a new guide that sets out how the city's employers can help protect their staff's mental health.

The user-friendly online guide has been created by mental health website MindWell in partnership with an initiative called Mindful Employer Leeds.

They say MindWell at Work – which has been launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week – is aimed at "leaders, people managers and HR professionals" across the city.

The guide includes advice on promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace and ways for bosses to support staff who are experiencing problems away from their jobs.

Nicola Gallear, content and communications manager at MindWell, said: "Mental ill health is the biggest cause of sickness absence in this country.

"Adopting a proactive and preventative approach to wellbeing in the workplace can have many benefits for both employers and employees.

"It can help to increase staff commitment and productivity and reduce sick leave and staff turnover.

"Creating a happier, healthier workplace where people feel supported can also stop problems from escalating and help people to stay in work and thrive.

"We are delighted to have worked with Mindful Employer Leeds and local employers to produce a user-friendly guide that brings together practical guidance and information about local support and training options, in one ‘go-to’ place.

"MindWell at Work can be used by organisations and businesses of all sizes and has many wellbeing ideas that are free or low cost."

Key elements of the guide include:

* Advice on what to do if a team member opens up about their own mental health issues or voices concern regarding a colleague's wellbeing;

* An in-depth look at an employer's responsibilities when it comes to work-related stress;

* Details on legislation and rights, including a section explaining how mental health is covered by the Equality Act 2010;

* Tips on supporting members of staff who return to work after time off due to mental health problems.

The local employers involved with the production of the guide included Leeds Beckett University and The Works Recruitment Leeds.

Its release was welcomed today by Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan, who said: "Improving people’s mental health and wellbeing is a core commitment within the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and a valued, well-trained and supported workforce is key for our Inclusive Growth Strategy ambitions.

"It also supports our commitment to the prevention concordat for mental health."

Coun Rebecca Charlwood, the council's executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, added: "We want Leeds to be the best city for health and wellbeing, so it's essential that our employers have good mental health awareness and support.

"MindWell at Work will be a valuable resource in making this happen.”

The guide can be found at the www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk website, which is funded by the Leeds NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and co-produced by staff based at MHabitat and Forum Central.

Mindful Employer, meanwhile, is a national initiative that provides businesses and other organisations with access to information for staff with mental health issues.

Mindful Employer Leeds co-ordinator Martha Clowes said: "We engage with our local network of 400 employers through one-to-ones, workshops and network events to share good practice regarding supporting staff experiencing mental health difficulties.

"These conversations have raised some of the key concerns employers are experiencing such as how to provide the right training for managers, having appropriate conversations with staff they are concerned about and putting adequate support in place.

"It’s hard to know what your exact responsibilities are as an employer and this new resource will act as a crucial guide.

"It is fulfilling a real need and will give employers the confidence to make positive changes in their organisation."

As previously reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, health and wellbeing provider Westfield Health says many people in the city are struggling to cope with the demands of their jobs.

According to its inaugural Wellbeing Index study, a third of Leeds's employees feel obliged to regularly stay late at their place of work.

Nearly half of those quizzed for the report said they felt under pressure to arrive early, with 22 per cent saying they sometimes have to miss lunch to get their job done.

More than 60 per cent of human resources professionals surveyed nationally, meanwhile, identified mental health issues as one of the main reasons for staff absences.