Since the UK passed the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974, employees have been nearly guaranteed reasonable protections from their organization.
The law aims to reduce risk and increase safety provisions for anyone in relation to an organization, whether it’s employees or visitors coming into the office. This can range from preventing illegal activity on company property, “controlling emissions in the atmosphere,” adhering to building regulations and being cognizant of medical needs.
While employers cannot always promise protections, the law aims to place the responsibility on organizations to do all they can to create a safe, healthy environment.
However, physical health represents only a portion of protections.
In the future of work, employers will be pressed to demonstrate exactly how they are protecting their workers. For instance, while the law initially helped tackle workplace health risks, such as asbestos exposure, it has done little to address the mental health impact of a job.
More specifically, while the law specifies the difference between health, safety and welfare, where mental wellbeing fits is still unclear. However, new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) puts emotional health into focus.
Last year, HSE laid out its Strategy for 2022 to 2032, emphasizing the importance of reducing poor health related to work. But despite this renewed distinction between physical and mental health in the workplace, there is still little legislation that protects workers from the emotional harm that can come from the workplace.
Regardless, it is clear that the relationship between mental health and the workplace has come to the forefront and that future policies will likely follow.