A survey of businesses in the south east has found that employers feel employment equality legislation serves as a barrier to taking on people with mental health problems.
According to research undertaken by Waterford Institute of Technology and the Health Service Executive, employers feel they may encounter employment legislation, health and safety and insurance issues if they were to knowingly employ someone with a mental health difficulty.
The research team, consisting of Dr. John Wells and Ms. Jennifer Cunningham, from the Department of Nursing at Waterford Institute of Technology, and Mr David Heffernan from the HSE (South), examined employers’ views on disability policy and the employment of people with on-going mental health problems.
Their findings suggest policy formulators need to consult at a more local level in order that employers in the south east receive enough information on employment equality policy.
“There appears to be a failure of communication at a local level in terms of informing employers of supports available to them when considering whether or not to employ a person with a mental health problem or to retain them within their workforce if they develop a mental health problem whilst employed,” said Dr Wells.
One in five employers surveyed indicated that they had no access to services to support employees with mental health problems, nor could they mention any agency that offered such support.
“Employers highlighted the fact they do not receive enough information on employment equality policy and such information is not actively disseminated to their businesses,” said Dr Wells.
“The consultative process should not only include those with mental health problems and associated experts but also actively utilise local companies’ experience in the employment and support of people with mental health problems. Policy development needs to recognise and engage with employer concerns, whilst addressing their needs for support and understanding of the realities of the business agenda,” Dr Wells concluded.
Some 167 businesses from the private sector in the south east replied to a postal survey and a smaller selected sample of businessmen and women agreed to take part in face to face interviews.
Following are the survey findings:
- 20% of employers surveyed did not know whether or not they employed people with mental health problems.
- 41% of them currently employ physically disabled employees.
- 32% employ people with mental health problems.
- 23.2% indicated that although they were aware some of their employees experienced mental health problems they did not know what type.
- The most common mental health problem experienced by employees with a mental health issue in the surveyed companies was depression (16.8%).
- 14.4% of employees with mental health issues at the surveyed companies experienced anxiety or stress.
- Alcohol dependence accounted for 11.4% of the mental health issues experienced at the surveyed companies.
- 86% of employers indicated that they had no access to services to support employees with mental health problems, nor could they mention any agency that offered such support.