A report published by the Mental Health and Income Commission has revealed new national polling figures based on responses from 2,000 people aged 18 and over. Those polling figures indicate that one fifth of people with mental health conditions in the UK have faced discrimination at work. This Commission consists of a collaboration of businesses, trade unions and charities led by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. The report found that there is an income gap between those with common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and people without those conditions. Those in the former group typically earned £8,400 less per year than those in the latter group.
Related findings in the report note that only a minority of people with mental health conditions (15%) had requested reasonable adjustments at work. Of those who had, two-thirds (68%) said that their requests were either rejected, or only partly met.
The report highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the incomes and health of people with mental health conditions. According to the polling figures, around 7% of people who had experienced mental health conditions were made redundant since March 2020, compared with only 4% of people who had not experienced mental health conditions in the same period. Three in 10 working-age people with a mental health condition reported that their income had dropped due to being furloughed, having their hours or wages cut, or being made redundant. As a result, they had less money to spend on essential items, such as food or heating.
A silver lining for those with mental health conditions has been the general switch to more flexible ways of working related to the pandemic. However, it will be important for employers to think about how flexibility is maintained once restrictions have been eased, so that it does not become a time limited benefit.
To narrow the mental health income gap for the long term, the report recommended that employers should:
- support the mental health and incomes of staff while furloughed and when they return, for instance, by signposting them to debt and income advice services to help them avoid the health and financial consequences of problem debt;
- provide practical mental health training to all managers, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to better support employees and to promote fairer recruitment, retention and progression practices;
- develop a list of reasonable adjustments and proactively offer them to employees, providing appropriate and timely adjustments to assist people to remain in work where possible;
- offer secondments, shadowing, volunteering and buddying opportunities; and
- offer roles flexibly wherever possible, helping new and existing employees to work in ways suited to their individual needs and health considerations.
The events of the past year will have taken their toll on many, including those who have mental health conditions. The report indicates a potential disparate impact for those who have such conditions. Employers need to ensure that any steps that they are taking are not contrary to the protections against disability discrimination and harassment under the Equality Act 2010. Employers are recommended to consider ways in which they can implement the recommendations of the report. Such steps may have advantages such as (i) fostering strong and long-lasting employee engagement and (ii) resolving any potential issues before they become contentious.