Jodie Hill of Thrive Law aims for parliamentary debate on mental health first aiders

Jodie Hill of Thrive Law is aiming to get her campaign for mandatory workplace mental health first aiders debated in Parliament early next year.

Hill, who also launched her employment and HR firm Thrive Law this year, said her petition and the media coverage that it’s attracted, including Sky News and various local outlets in Yorkshire, have generated support from MPs, most recently Leeds West’s Rachel Reeves.

The petition, launched in early 2018, had almost 3,000 signatures at the time of writing.

“The campaign is really about banging the same drum,” Hill said.

That persistent drumbeat helped to secure an update to the Health and Safety Executive’s first aid guidance on mental health in November, which says: “Following your employers’ first aid needs assessment; you might decide that it will be beneficial to have personnel trained to identify and understand symptoms and able to support someone who might be experiencing a mental health issue.”

Despite the update, workplace mental health first aiders still aren’t mandatory, so Hill is planning to return to the campaign trail in the New Year, to gather more support and, ultimately, get politicians in London talking about metal health in the workplace.

“We’ve slowed down the campaign because Brexit is dominating parliamentary time at the moment,” Hill explained. “But once March [when the UK leaves the EU] comes around, we’ll step up our efforts to get an MP to debate this topic in Parliament if it hasn’t already been.”

An additional aim of Hill’s is to position Leeds as a leader in mental health that can set an example to the rest of the country. As well as Reeves, the MP for Leeds West, Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, and a host of other local leaders have expressed support.

Support in the Leeds legal scene and wider Yorkshire has also been positive with 70 people attending the Thriving Minds conference in October.

The event, which took place on World Mental Health Day, raised awareness of the work that Leeds Mind and Mindful Employer do to support employers and employees with mental health issues in the workplace.

For the 2019 Thriving Minds conference, Hill expects the event to double in size, and is in talks with the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University—where she is a lecturer—about potentially sponsoring and hosting the 2019 event.

There was also significant interest from professionals and businesses outside of Yorkshire about attending this year, so Hill said a Thriving Minds conference somewhere in the south of the country “is on the cards”.

Thrive Law itself has had a positive 2018, with the firm expanding, most recently with the addition of a digital marketing apprentice and a paralegal, and taking on more office space in the centre of Leeds.

Top of the Thrive Law’s agenda in 2019—aside from “more the same”, according to Hill—is the digitalisation of some of the firm’s services. Hill said this digitalisation would take the form of an app or website, and would focus on the firm’s non-contentious HR services, in a bid to help clients access them more quickly and cost effectively.