Equiniti Group plc is an international technology-led financial services and payments specialist providing essential services to some of the world’s best-known brands and UK’s largest public-sector organisations, delivered by over 5,000 employees.
Colleagues at Equiniti make the everyday happen for a huge proportion of the UK, ensuring many frontline staff such as nurses are paid on time each month, that the UK’s veterans receive their pensions and providing many essential services and platforms which underpin the banking industry.
These meticulous and project-oriented tasks are often stressful by nature, yet before signing the Employers Pledge mental health was not a common topic of conversation at Equiniti. Stress-related absences and attitudes towards mental health were similar to other financial services businesses, with some colleagues feeling if they “admitted to a mental health problem” it may affect people’s perception of them.
Since signing Employers Pledge in 2018, 71% of colleagues report feeling their employer takes mental health seriously.
The existing Disability & Mental Health Network, which was set up in 2017, had made positive progress via a number of local initiatives and was beginning to understand what support would be valuable to colleagues. However, it had not yet created real change for all colleagues across the group.
Equiniti signed the Employers Pledge in October 2018 and describe this as a key moment in the journey which created the environment for change and “helped to focus our minds”.
They have since implemented a raft of innovative changes across the Group to encourage greater openness about mental health in their workplaces. These include training Mental Health First Aiders across their UK sites, creating specific ‘men talk’ forums to provoke dialogue around male colleagues’ mental state and creating video content to tackle key issues including a particularly bold and moving video to coincide with Suicide Prevention Day.
"The Time to Change Employer Pledge was the catalyst which helped to focus our minds. Progress would have been made nonetheless, but it wouldn’t have happened in the same way.”
In response to colleagues’ requests to understand senior management’s experiences with mental health and to provide a clear message on how important Equiniti feels open and supportive discussion is, the Mental Health and Disability Network produced a powerful, thought-provoking video featuring senior colleagues’ personal experiences with suicide.
Initially, the idea of sharing such painful personal stories was met with some nervousness. Had the suicide prevention video been suggested in the previous year "even the first step of asking the executive sponsor for input" may not have occurred. However, the cultural shift and greater level of trust, which the numerous mental-health related activities brought about in the workplace, made it possible for colleagues to feel comfortable to share their experiences openly.
View the video by clicking the image below. Please note the video may be distressing or upsetting for some viewers.
Since signing the Employer Pledge, 28 Mental Health First Aiders have been recruited and of these, 26 have been used by colleagues. They are “definitely the number one thing that’s made a difference because of their visibility; it’s like people have been given permission that mental health is a thing they can talk about [...] permission to say ‘I’m struggling'."
Equiniti's Mental Health First Aiders are the driving force behind awareness days such as Time to Talk Day and World Mental Health Day. They organise a number of ‘tea and talk’ drop-in sessions, mindfulness sessions and quarterly meetings to share best practice.
“People were suspicious that admitting to a mental health issue would affect their career prospects. Being honest I don’t think this has totally gone away, but there has definitely been a culture shift, and we know this because our MHFAs are being used more frequently”
Equiniti used the Time to Change Champions model as a basis for recruiting people in the organisation who were passionate about improving mental health and enabling them to become another driving force for change.
Communications around mental health have increased to four Group-wide newsletters, an example of which can be found below, and the production and distribution of three videos. The language used in these communications has also been adapted to be more direct about mental health.
Managers have been better equipped through lunch-and-learn mental health awareness sessions, which are an effective way to engage those with busy schedules. Managers have also benefited from clearer resources on Equiniti’s intranet and by joining the Business Disability Forum for further access to advice and support.
There has been a noticeable shift in attitudes towards mental health in the Equiniti workplace, meaning that initiatives could be implemented which “we couldn’t have done a year before. It’s this journey we’ve been on - people were willing to open up”.
Internal surveys indicate that a majority (71%) employees at Equiniti feel that their employer takes mental health seriously.
Equiniti have ambitious plans moving forward, including increasing the numbers of Mental Health First Aiders and Disability Champions they recruit. They are also looking to carry out a wellbeing survey to measure their progress and inform their future interventions and strategies in addressing workplace mental health.