Jobseekers advised to avoid words such as ‘depression’

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Jobcentre Plus employees have been advised to tell people looking for work to hide mental health issues with terms such as “low mood”.

A jobseeker in Dorset posted a leaflet online that he had been given at his local job centre. It suggests that jobseekers produce a “positive health statement” during the recruitment process, avoiding disclosing diagnoses such as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or depression.

The leaflet said: “You may wish to avoid terms such as depression, ME or low back pain and use more general terms such as low mood or a mental health condition, a fatigue-related condition, an ongoing pain condition etc.”

Mental health charity Mind criticised the advice, highlighting how legislation provides protection for those with both physical and mental health problems if they have a substantial effect on their normal daily activities.

“Anyone who discloses a mental health problem at work deserves to be treated with respect, and job centres should not be reinforcing stigma by advising people not to disclose,” said Ayaz Manji, a senior policy officer at Mind. “People with mental health problems have just as much to offer as anyone else in the workplace, and it’s right that this advice is being challenged.”

Shadow disabilities minister Marsha de Cordova also raised concerns about the wording of the document in the House of Commons yesterday. She said: “It can’t be right that a department is expecting people to downplay their disability or health condition.”

A spokesperson for charity Action for ME added that they were “outraged that people with ME are being told to keep quiet about the reality of their experience”. Around 250,000 people in the UK have the condition.

The Department for Work and Pensions responded to the criticism by explaining the document was “well-intentioned local advice”, which has now been removed. “We would always encourage jobseekers to speak freely about a health condition or disability,” a spokesperson added.

Under the Equality Act, employers should not ask a job applicant questions about their health before offering them employment, but they must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate job applicants with disabilities during the recruitment process.

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One Response to Jobseekers advised to avoid words such as ‘depression’

  1. Avatar
    Sir 9 Oct 2019 at 6:30 pm #

    You advertise a job because you have a job to be done. You want someone who can turn up and do that work for you. Why would you engage someone who has a propensity to be absent ?
    Having a disability does not mean that you will be absent from work. Many people with disabilities have good attendance records. However, if a person has a history of being absent for long durations due to poor mental health (and mental health recovery is rarely a quick thing) why would you engage them ?
    Think of it this way. You want a conservatory built. You engage a contractor to do the work, which you are told will take 4 weeks. 5 months later it’s still not finished because they have had a persistent poor mental health condition and not been able to work. You’d be pretty miffed wouldn’t you ?
    It’s the same in general work – just because the conservatory example is close to home doesn’t make it different.

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