Community Links and Howarths partner to help businesses create mentally healthy workplaces

An Inspire North training course

Leeds mental health and wellbeing charity, Community Links has partnered with HR consultancy, Howarths, to help businesses in Yorkshire tackle the impact of the rising cost of living on employee mental health, ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (9 – 15 May).

The partnership will see Community Links, part of the Inspire North Group, and Howarths work together on several initiatives to help the region’s SMEs create mentally healthy workplaces – including the delivery of mental health awareness training and other mental health-related courses such as suicide intervention skills training.

Sinéad Cregan, director of development and innovation at Inspire North, parent organisation of Community Links, said: “Increased living costs mean heavier financial burdens for many employees, which, if left unaddressed, can lead to acute mental health problems.

“With the Bank of England predicting inflation could rise to a level not seen in decades this year, many employees will experience the biggest income squeeze in a generation – and will need the support of their employers more than ever. Creating mentally healthy workplaces, where employees feel able and confident to talk openly about their mental health at work, is crucial.

“Our partnership with Howarths is focused on helping businesses achieve this by, among other initiatives, delivering mental health first aid training so managers and colleagues are equipped with the skills to identify someone struggling with their mental health and know how to step in and support them.”

Sarah Edwards, Senior Employment Law solicitor at Howarths, said: “Our employment law team is receiving record numbers of enquiries from businesses needing advice on managing mental health related sickness absence among staff. This is a trend we expect will continue in the coming months in line with the rising cost of living and the associated financial pressures.

“Can staff afford the cost of transport or fuel to travel to work? Can they fund the utilities they need to work from home?  Are they having difficulty with increased rent or mortgage costs?  These issues cause stress and anxiety, which can also have a direct impact on productivity and performance.

“Employers are uniquely placed to help mitigate the worst of these issues. It is imperative that businesses, large and small, act now and look at how they can create mentally healthy workplaces for their teams and support them to talk openly about their mental health through investment in awareness and training.

“Businesses also have a legal responsibility to help their employees as part of their health and safety duty, and by making adjustments to support employees with disabilities.

“Supporting staff with their mental health can have a hugely positive impact, which can bring corresponding benefits to employers including reduced sickness absence, increased productivity, and improved workplace retention.  It will also help employers avoids claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination, which have a negative impact on reputation and come at a significant financial cost.

Sinéad Cregan said: “In 2019’s Mental Health at Work, Time to Take Ownership Report, 69 per cent of UK line managers said supporting employee wellbeing is a core skill, but only 13 per cent had received mental health training – and 35 per cent of line managers reported a wish for basic training in common mental health conditions.

“Working with Howarths, we aim to address these numbers and support businesses and organisations that want to create a mentally healthy workplace founded on a culture of understanding and openness around mental health at work.”

Ruth Kettle, Chief Executive at Inspire North, said: “We are delighted to be launching a partnership between Inspire North and Howarths that will have a focus on mental health and wellbeing. 

“Inspire North’s people orientated values are aligned with Howarths, and the collaboration will allow us to jointly support many businesses across the region, at a time when addressing mental health is especially important. We aim to encourage a culture of openness, creating mentally healthy workplaces where honest conversations around mental wellbeing can take place.”

Gavin Howarth, managing director at Howarths, said: “I think for businesses there is a lot of fear and misunderstanding about what it means to positively engage with the mental health of their teams. It doesn’t have to be complicated and, in fact, it shouldn’t be. I’m delighted to team up with Inspire North – who are experts in this field – to help businesses create mentally healthy workspaces in a practical, common-sense way.” 

For more information about mental health training from Community Links, visit

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