A recent survey showed that hiring managers are wary of taking on a member of staff with a severe mental illness. It's up to all of us to change thatby Gillian Connor / January 23, 2019 / Leave a comment
There is an emerging and compelling economic case for being proactive about mental health in the workplace. But the economic case for supporting people who are severely affected by mental illness is seemingly less obvious.
Stigma and misunderstanding are rife, and the perceived ‘risk’ of taking on someone with a mental illness, or supporting those already in the workplace, often overshadows what an individual can offer.
A survey commissioned by Rethink Mental Illness in 2017 showed that 68 per cent of staff with hiring responsibilities would worry someone with severe mental illness “wouldn’t fit in with the team,” 83 per cent thought they “wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of the job” and 74 per cent would worry that someone with severe mental illness would “need lots of time off.” It is not surprising, then, that only 43 per cent of people with mental health problems are in employment, compared with 74 per cent of the population.
Similarly, line managers can be ill-equipped to deal with mental health problems when they do arise or are disclosed in the workplace. Companies often trumpet their disability-friendly approach but often are not explicit about their support for less-visible disabilities.
Managers often contact our national information line because they are worried about how to manage a disclosure of mental illness and how to deal with performance issues which may be linked to mental ill-health. (We also hear from employees who report that requesting reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act often feels like asking for a ‘favour,’ rather than an exercise of their legal rights.)
This can help explain why many with a mental illness struggle to remain in work, perhaps taking long periods of sick leave when this could have been avoided with good management and trust.
This is why adequate training for line managers is needed around not just the law and duty of care responsibilities but also the ‘soft’ management skills, such as listening non-judgementally. This needs to…