Equalities chief seeks rethink on attitudes to mental health

There needs to be a “radical rethink” by employers on attitudes to mental health if the UK wants to utilise the potential of people who suffer from mental illness, Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has said.

In a speech for the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Phillips called on employers to “create a workplace which cultivates openness, provides support and promotes mental wellbeing”.

With fewer than 40% of employers willing to hire someone with a mental heath condition, the cost to the economy was £10bn a year, he added.

Employers needed to provide more support, including greater flexibility at work to allow people to attend healthcare appointments, or to work outside normal office hours, establishing buddy and mentoring schemes to provide daily support, and greater understanding over sick and unpaid leave, he argued.

“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,” he added.

The TUC has published guidance to help employers and unions support people with mental health problems at work, which is available online.

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