UK's major financial institutions and law firms commit to new working practices for better mental health

10 October 2018

Three of the UK’s biggest banks and eight of the UK’s top law firms have joined together in an unprecedented alliance to change avoidable working practices that can cause mental health and wellbeing issues for employees.

The Mindful Business Charter, developed by Barclays alongside law firms Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard, is the first time banks and their legal services providers have come together to reach a shared agenda for supporting mental health and wellbeing.

A signing event this week marks an important first step in adopting the charter by Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest and law firms Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells and Simmons & Simmons.

All of the signatories have committed to a set of principles centred on improved communication, respect for rest periods and considerate delegation of tasks. Performance against these principles will be monitored as part of relationship review meetings.

In signing, these organisations pledge to promote a culture of openness about mental wellbeing, ensure responsible business is included as an area of assessment during significant procurement processes and drive forward the actions and necessary change in support of the principles of the Charter.

Philip Aiken, Managing Director at Barclays, said:

"Barclays takes the health and wellbeing of its employees very seriously and that extends to our external advisors who we view to be an extension of our legal function. The take-up of the Charter from so many of our banking and legal counterparts shows the power of collaboration to foster change. I believe it shouldn't stop there. We hope that in time these principles will be applied in all organisations across all sectors."

Richard Foley, Senior Partner of Pinsent Masons, added:

"Professional advisers are often in a position of privilege, so it is easy to underestimate or overlook the impact of the work they do on their wellbeing. Mental health issues impact people at all levels and in all sectors. Changing working practices have increased those pressures significantly. It is not good enough to just accept that as the price we have to pay. We have a responsibility to make changes."

Charles Penney, Senior Partner at Addleshaw Goddard, continues:

"Mental wellbeing has a huge impact on organisations and individuals, their friends and families. In many instances small changes can have exponentially positive impacts in reducing stress. This in turn helps improve retention, motivation, and productivity while addressing absenteeism. We are proud to be working alongside Barclays and Pinsent Masons in driving this charter forward."

The Charter has the support of mental health charity Mind, the Law Society, LawCare and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said:

“We welcome the launch of the Mindful Business Charter which sets out key principles to help employers tackle avoidable causes of stress and poor mental health at work. It’s positive to see so many employers already on board. Experiencing poor mental health at work is really common regardless of the kind of role you do, but if you work in the legal sector, there are particular factors that could put you at greater risk of developing a mental health problem.

"Things like long working hours, excessive workload and challenging relationships with colleagues and clients come up time and time again as sources of stress that could be reduced.

“This Charter acknowledges that changing working cultures won’t happen overnight but it’s a step in the right direction – recognising some of the factors that can impact on staff mental health and committing to tackling them within their organisation. Employers are increasingly striving to create mentally healthy workplaces for their employees.

"After all, those that put in place measures such as flexible working hours, generous annual leave, subsidised exercise classes and regular catch ups with colleagues will see greater staff morale, productivity and reduced sickness absence. It’s now been a year since the ‘Thriving at Work’ review made recommendations to help employers support their staff to stay mentally well and flourish in work.

"The Government accepted all these standards, and now employers are rightly following suit. It’s great to see workplace wellbeing beginning to get the priority it deserves within the City and beyond.”

  1. The Mindful Business Charter is a product of collaboration between Barclays who identified the issue and engaged in the challenge, Pinsent Masons who devised the framework and Addleshaw Goddard who played a critical part in bringing the strategy to life. https://alerts.pinsentmasons.com/rs/emsdocuments/Mindful-Business-Charter-2018.pdf (PDF 718KB)
  2. The three organisations garnered perspectives from lawyers, diversity & inclusion specialists, learning & development professionals and client relationship management teams.
  3. Organisations including mental health charity Mind, the SRA, Law Society and the Lord Mayor's Office were also consulted with during development of the Charter.