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Disciplined, demoted and dismissed: The downsides of disclosing

Wednesday, 04 October 2017 Mind

Worrying new data from Business in the Community has found that 15% of people faced disciplinary action, demotion or even dismissal as a result of telling their employer about their mental health problem.

YouGov surveyed over 3,000 people in work across the UK for the study, and found that three in five (60%) employees have experienced mental health issues because of work. Yet despite 53% of people feeling comfortable talking about mental health at work, a significant percentage of employees risk serious repercussions for disclosing a mental health issue. 15% of employees face dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion after disclosing a mental health issue at work (compared to 9% identified in similar research undertaken in 2016). Scaled up to the general working population, this could mean as many as 1.2 million people* negatively affected for disclosing mental health problems.

The report - Mental Health at Work - is drawn from the findings of the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey sponsored by Mercer and undertaken by YouGov. It is a three-year collaborative project supported by strategic partners The Institute of Leadership and Management, Mental Health at Work, Mental Health First Aid England, Mind and The Work Foundation, to transform workplace mental health. 

Thankfully, it's not all bad news. The report highlights some significant improvement in attitudes towards mental health in the workplace. Over four in five (84%) of employers acknowledge that they have a responsibility towards their employees mental wellbeing. And 91% of mangers agree that what they do affects the wellbeing of their staff. However, despite this, less than a quarter (24%) of managers have received any training in mental health. There also remains a pervasive culture of silence over mental health at work with three out of four people affected choosing not to involve anyone at work.

Commenting on the findings, Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community said:

“Despite the increased prominence of mental health as a workplace issue it remains the elephant in the room that over a million people face serious repercussions for disclosing mental health issues to their employers. This report is an urgent call to action for collective leadership from employers to end this injustice and provide better support. It is time to challenge the myth that having a mental health issues equates to poor performance. We must equip managers with the knowledge and training to make the reasonable workplace adjustments that enable people to stay in work and thrive.”

Responding to the research, Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said:

“Mind works with employers to help them create mentally healthy workplaces. Over the last few years, we’ve seen increasingly engaged employers prioritising mental health at work, and it’s in the best interests of everyone to do so. We know that employers who put in place measures to promote wellbeing at work, such as flexible working hours, Employee Assistance Programmes and subsidised gym membership – reap rewards when it comes to having more loyal, engaged staff who are less likely to leave or need time off sick.

“However, this YouGov and Business in the Community survey brings into sharp focus just how far we have to go when it comes to raising awareness and tackling stigma. It’s horrifying that almost 1 in 6 employees who disclosed mental ill health faced dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion. Good workplaces aim to create a positive culture where staff feel able to talk openly about issues like stress and mental health and know that if they do, they’ll be met with support and understanding, rather than facing stigma and discrimination. Forward-thinking employers recognise the benefits of recruiting and retaining a talented and diverse workforce, including people who might be experiencing a mental health problem.”

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