Employers must do more to tackle mental health prejudice

Mental health prejudice still exists in UK business and employers are not doing enough to tackle the problem

Employers must do more to tackle mental health prejudice

Employees that are experiencing mental distress can find it difficult to stay in work or to know what support they can expect from their employer. It is in the best interests of employees and employers to create mentally healthy workplaces that are free from discrimination.

However, a study of employer attitudes towards staff with mental health conditions has revealed that a shocking 94% of UK leaders admit prejudice against sufferers.

The report from Bupa, ‘Breaking the Silence’, also revealed that while three quarters (76%) of business leaders know that creating a mentally healthy workforce makes good business sense, leaders are not as understanding as they believe. Leaders admit to labelling employees with mental health conditions ‘unpredictable’, ‘erratic’ and ‘weak’. Additionally, almost half of the business leaders surveyed admitted treading on eggshells around employees who have experienced a mental health condition and one in five leaders avoid talking to them altogether. 

There is a disconnect between what leaders think they are doing to support good mental health and what employees say they are actually experiencing. A fifth of employees with a condition said they have felt under pressure to resign and more than half believed their illness had harmed their chances of promotion. Meanwhile seven in ten don’t feel they can speak candidly about such issues or concerns. 

Patrick Watt, corporate director at Bupa, said: “Despite business leaders recognising the importance of addressing mental health at work there is still a long way to go to break down the wall of silence and create genuine change.”

Furthermore, there is an additional conflict in terms of perceptions around how much a person with a mental health condition may be able to achieve; a third of business leaders think that employees with mental health illnesses will fail to return to full productivity. In contrast, over half of employees who suffer these hardships still feel they are top performers. 

“Great talent is being lost and demotivated due to a lack of understanding about mental health,” Watt said. “Yet, it is perfectly possible for employees to return to work after a mental illness, and not only perform, but excel in their roles.” 

Ryan McChrystal
Ryan McChrystal

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