Ways UK Mental Health First Aiders in the Workplace Reduce Employee Absenteeism

8 Ways to Reduce Employee Absenteeism

According to the Mental Health Foundation, every year in the UK, 70 million workdays are lost due to mental illness, costing the UK economy over £12.7bn. As well as this, 43% of workers say their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Onebright looks at how training mental health first aiders within the business can bring cost-saving benefits, like reducing employee absenteeism and improving overall workplace mental health.  

Mental health in the workplace is now the #1 challenge in business. In a society where 1 in 4 people have mental ill-health, mental health first aiders are far more valuable and necessary than many companies may have previously thought. 

Mental Health First Aid began in Australia but has spread over the past 22 years to 24 countries, including the UK. By 2016 its popularity in England was such that the Department of Health and Business in the Community (BITC) both recommended that employers should provide mental health training and implement it as a key facet of their well-being strategies.

Why are mental health first aiders important?

Fast-forward less than five years, and UK businesses that have already taken steps towards including mental health in their business strategy have been better equipped to deal with the mental health fallout of the pandemic. When employees from these businesses went into remote work, they already had in place a point of contact to whom people could turn if the lockdown, isolation or work-related stress became too much to cope with. 

Recent studies from McKinsey show employees are more likely to seek help with stress, anxiety, and depression now than they were five years ago. In any organisation, having a mental health first aider is a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. 

Having one or many trained mental health first aiders is both preventative and proactive. It’s a practical, ethical and productive way for employers to invest in their staff’s mental and emotional health. It encourages employees to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health and encourages people to speak about emotional matters and mental struggles more openly and positively in the workplace.

What do mental health first aiders do in the workplace?

A trained mental health first aider in the workplace acts as a point of contact for employees to talk to when experiencing a mental health issue. The first conversation between the employee and the workplace first-aider is to support the person and signpost appropriate resources. This may sometimes mean seeking professional help from an employer, charity or local NHS service where they can be pointed towards a counsellor, CBT therapist or other mental health specialists. 

A mental health first-aider is also aware of employee absenteeism and looks into cases of unexplained absences.

Eight responsibilities of a mental health first aider include:
  • Trained to spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill-health in the workplace.
  • Begin a supportive, professional conversation with a person who has shown signs they may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress.
  • Ability to listen to the person non-judgmentally.
  • Encourage the person to reach out to appropriate professional support or self-help strategies.
  • Escalate the situation to an emergency service if it is serious.
  • Maintain confidentiality of the situation and the person whilst following the appropriate first aid reporting requirements
  • Protect themselves and their own mental health while performing their role.
  • Reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace through education and looking after their own mental health. 


Mental health first aiders are not trained to be therapists, psychiatrists or counsellors, but clinical professionals can educate them to offer initial support through non-judgement listening and guidance.   

As organisations and leaders, it is vital to always be on the lookout for employee absenteeism and individuals who may need support with their mental health. Providing training for your mental health first aiders with clinically led, expert advice from Onebright clinicians will ensure you are well-placed to intervene when your employees need help. Fill in the form below to talk to us about mental health training for small businesses or at scale for large organisations. 

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