Employers must work on mental health
Posted Sunday 26 October 2008
As the first of the Government's measures to get people back to work are introduced today (1), Mind reveals shocking new evidence that employers are not willing to take on people who have experience of mental distress and that they are failing staff by not providing adequate mental health support. Unemployment is expected to hit two million by the end of the year and with employees anxious about the security of their jobs, Mind fears that employers are not doing enough to protect the wellbeing of their staff.
A snapshot poll by Mind (2) found that:
- 58% had to leave a job because of lack of mental health support
- 31% had been sacked or forced out of a job after disclosing a mental health problem
- 26% had been demoted after disclosing a mental health problem
- 1 in 4 had job offers withdrawn after disclosing a mental health problem which is illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Mind believes that many employers are not working hard enough to support and retain their staff, resulting in people being forced out of jobs and getting caught in the benefits system. Over 200,000 people with mental distress flow from work onto benefits every year (3), and more action is needed to ensure that employers help people to remain in work.
Thousands of people who are already stuck in the benefits trap will be affected by the introduction of the Work Capability Assessment today (27 October 2008). Many will be pushed onto Jobseeker's Allowance, placing all the emphasis on the individual to find work yet no pressure is applied to employers to recruit people with mental health problems. People with experience of mental distress have the highest want to work rate of any disabled group, and although 9 in 10 want to work (4), the government's own research has shown that fewer than 4 in 10 employers are willing to take them on (5).
Speaking on lack of support in the workplace, one service user told Mind:
"I went to HR and explained several times I was ill, being bullied and felt suicidal. They didn't know what to do, and they did nothing. I had several meetings to talk about what was happening, and nothing came of it. They were totally ineffective. I was telling them I was suicidal. I could have ended up dead, and they would have borne some responsibility for that.
"It's so simple to do it properly. It's not rocket science, talking to people and finding out what can be done to help. I hated that job, the environment, how I had been treated and I left."
Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:
"The vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work, but they face enormous challenges in finding and staying in employment. People with mental distress face a double dose of discrimination - they are discriminated against when they apply for jobs and discriminated against when they are in a job. Mind hears of terrible examples of bullying in the workplace, people being passed over for promotion or even demoted. For many people, it's not unwillingness to work, but rather stigma, misunderstanding and mismanagement that stop people from enjoying fulfilling working lives.
"While we welcome the government's commitment to provide extra support to get people back into employment, it won't work without requirements being put on employers. If businesses refuse to adapt their practices then people with mental health problems will not fit easily into the government's welfare reform proposals.
"Businesses must recognise that the health and welfare of their employees affects their bottomline and that looking after staff who are experiencing mental distress makes economic sense, especially in the current financial climate."
Susan Scott-Parker, Chief Executive of Employers' Forum on Disability, said:
"The Government needs to be looking at this issue from both sides of the fence and build plans that reflect the needs of both employers and employees. Employers need to be given an insight into how they can apply best practice and managers need to be supported so that they have the confidence to help employees experiencing mental distress."
Mind is calling for:
- A stronger message from Government on their expectations of employers.
- A duty on employers to carry out mental health risk assessments of their workplaces, policies and practices.
- Measures to change employer discrimination through better enforcement of legislation and or appropriate incentives.
- A right for employees to request flexible working on mental health (or health/disability) grounds and to qualify for disability leave.
- The implementation of the proposals of the Dame Carol Black review to help to improve early intervention and retention and through joined up case management.
(1) On Monday 27 October 2008, Incapacity Benefit will be replaced with Employment and Support Allowance for all new claimants, alongside a new eligibility test, the Work Capability Assessment. In addition to these changes, further proposals on welfare reform have been put forward in the Government's Green Paper No one written off. The paper was published in July 2008 and consultation closed on Thursday 23 October 2008.
(2) Based on the responses of 279 people who completed a poll on Mind's website in October 2008.
(3) & (4) Dame Carol Black, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow (2008)
(5) DWP (2001)
Notes to editors
- Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.
- For more information or interviews please contact the Mind media team on T: 020 8522 1743 M: 07850 788514 E: email@example.com ISDN line available: 020 8221 0817
- Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.
- Employers' Forum on Disability is the world's leading employers' organisation focused on disability as it affects business. www.efd.org.uk