Health minister Rosie Winterton urges businesses to end mental illness stigma

Government and business leaders have been discussing new ways to tackle mental health in the workplace.

A conference earlier this week was part of a government ‘listening exercise’ to hear employers’ views about a national initiative to improve the emotional wellbeing of workers and tackle the stigma associated with mental illness.

Employers are being called upon by the Department of Health to adopt six principles as part of Action on Stigma – which include demonstrating that no-one is refused employment on the grounds of mental illness or disability.

UK employers are estimated to be losing more than £9bn every year because of mental health problems at work. And employees are taking 80 million days’ sick leave a year because of stress and other mental health problems, figures from mental health charity the Shaw Trust show.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: “We’ve seen much progress in recent decades in tackling discrimination at work in areas such as gender and race. But the issue of mental ill health in some workplaces still remains shrouded in secrecy, fear and ignorance.

“Now is the time to tackle this. Employers can help by raising awareness of mental health issues among workers, supporting those affected and combating discrimination against employees and customers.”

The conference, one of a series of events being held around the country, heard from leading companies with successful wellbeing at work policies, including sugar manufacturer Tate & Lyle, and Royal Mail.

An action plan for launching the initiative will be announced in the spring by the Department of Health.

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