Employment and Mental Ill Health.

The following is from the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health website.

We need a ‘radical rethink’ around employment practices to help mentally ill at work, says Trevor Phillips

8 May 2008

Trevor Phillips giving his speech

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, yesterday called for a ‘radical rethink’ by employers to unleash the talent of people with mental health conditions in a speech for the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. He called on employers to ‘create a workplace which cultivates openness, provides support and promotes mental wellbeing.’

‘By shutting people with a mental health condition out, we turn our back on enormous talent and potential,’ he said. He went on to point out that less than forty per cent of employers are willing to hire someone with a mental heath condition. The cost to the economy is around £10 billion a year.

Mr Phillips indicated a range of practical measures to help employers create a level playing field for staff with mental illnesses. These include:

  • More support
  • Flexibility at work, for example to allow people to attend healthcare appointments, or work outside normal office hours
  • A buddy/mentor scheme to provide support day to day
  • Flexibility around sick leave and unpaid leave.

‘We need to approach the issues of mental health at work not just from the point of view of a medical strategy. We also need an equality strategy.

‘Individual employers need to be aware of the reasonable adjustments they could make to the workplace so that it is feasible for people with mental health issues to stay in employment.

‘The Government is right to raise expectations of people with mental health problems leaving Incapacity Benefit and moving into work, and critically not leaving work and going onto incapacity benefit in the first place. But we need to up our game if we are going to make any real difference. We must redouble our efforts to support people not just to find jobs but to also develop in and keep jobs.’

Angela Greatley, Chief Executive of the Sainsbury centre for Mental Health, said: ‘We are delighted that Trevor Phillips has highlighted the need for all of us to tackle the ignorance and prejudices that reduce the life chances and potential of people with mental health problems.

‘Mental distress is a fact of life. It can affect any of us at any time. Ignoring mental ill health at work is a false economy. Mental ill health costs UK businesses £1,000 a year for every person they employ. Instead of running away from it, employers need to embrace the issue and create workplaces that promote mental wellbeing.’

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