Please note this case study was developed using an older version of the RMHC. The action referred may not align with the 2024 RMHC.

Why did Colas Rail UK sign up to the Railway Mental Health Charter?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health is the biggest driver of disability, equating to 40 million years of disability for 20-29 year olds worldwide. A shocking statistic, and it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to tackling mental health. Since the Time to Change pledge ended in 2021 there has been a need for a framework to address mental health, to reinforce the work Colas Rail was already doing in this area. 

The Railway Mental Health Charter (RMHC) covers the things we should already be doing as an industry to support mental health, and in a really simple way. It enables all parts of the industry to tackle mental health. The more companies sign up the more weight mental health will be given. 

How did Colas Rail use the RMHC?

Colas Rail have an existing wellbeing policy but signing up to the RMHC enabled the company to show further commitment and ensure accountability. 

The RMHC includes an action planner which supports the development of key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor progress. The RMHC action planner was used to identify what Colas Rail were already doing and how this mapped onto the seven actions in the charter. This enabled Colas Rail to understand what areas were not being addressed, and the steps needed to address them. 

The flexibility of the RMHC meant Colas Rail was able to adapt it to fit with what the company needs. This involved the Head of Wellbeing, the Health and Safety Director and the HR Director using the RMHC to create a wider health and wellbeing charter for Colas Rail.  

This adaptation involved integrating aspects of the RMHC into Colas Rail’s own charter, such as establishing senior leadership buy-in, using KPIs and role modelling through senior leadership and managers. 

This has enabled Colas Rail to develop its own international and company-specific Wellbeing Charter.

Once the Wellbeing Charter had been developed, senior leaders from across the business met to discuss potential barriers and solutions for overcoming them. 

What changes have Colas Rail made as a result of the RMHC?

Colas Rail has used the RMHC to develop its company specific Wellbeing Charter that was launched in April 2022. The Wellbeing Charter covers 8 Health and Wellbeing themes: 

  • Mental health 
  • Work-life balance
  • Return to work
  • Prevention of fatigue
  • Prevention of stress
  • Physical activity
  • Energy and nutrition 
  • Career Lifecycles

Colas Rail use monthly ‘wellbeing cascades’ sent out across the company to inform employees what is happening in relation to mental health. These include webinars and health conversation topics particularly relevant to mental health and stress discussions. 

Colas Rail have also delivered webinars on leaders’ briefings and conversation guides internationally, for frontline managers to be able to have conversations with teams around mental health. This includes the themes that support good mental health such as sleep and nutrition. 

What challenges were experienced/overcome?

A key issue in implementing the RMHC at Colas Rail is that it is a large and diverse company, with differing levels of health and wellbeing understanding across the business. For example in some areas of the business it may be more difficult to get people used to talking about mental health than in others. The way Colas Rail has tackled this issue is by starting with areas of the business that are more advanced in their appreciation of mental health. In parallel, Colas Rail has communicated the changes and successes within these teams to the rest of the business, to influence the whole company over time.

As a global company, Colas Rail recognises there may also be difficulties applying the Wellbeing Charter within all countries, as some may not be very familiar with talking about mental health. To overcome this, Colas Rail recognised the importance of listening to individual businesses and understand what the barriers could be. Colas then worked with them individually to decide one or two themes that would be more palatable as an implementation starting point. 

One of the biggest challenges is the time needed to change the culture of the business. Colas Rail has taken a steady approach to mental health, and information has been drip-fed for the last four years. The message needs to be frequently reinforced to achieve change. The implementation of the new Wellbeing Charter, using the RMHC, is another, and important, step in this consistent process.

How will Colas Rail measure the outcome?

Colas Rail already uses a number of health measures including health surveillance, high-level absence data and an employee assistance programme (EAP). Surveys are sent out at the end of each health and wellbeing webinar to collect feedback. Safety Culture Surveys are done every other year. This year includes some psychological safety related questions to find out how people feel the company cares for them. Colas Rail will continue to collect this data alongside more proactive measures such as staff leave and whether employees are taking holiday regularly, to ensure they are taking time to rest. 

What has the RMHC meant for the company?

Although Colas Rail had already been driving mental health for several years, the launch of the RMHC provided a way to refresh commitment from the company. It has made the business’ focus on people’s mental health more effective. The fact that the RMHC is backed by RSSB gives credence to the work Colas Rail are doing to support mental health.