Commission calls for systemic employment reforms, with 5m people with mental health problems fearful about post lockdown return to office
3 February 2021
- To ‘build back better’ after the pandemic, the government must address inflexible and discriminatory work practices which have left millions of people with mental health problems fearful about returning to normal working arrangements after lockdown.
- That is the message of the final report by the Mental Health and Income Commission, a panel of experts from the worlds of business, politics, trade unions and charities, led by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
- The Commission is warning that these entrenched barriers to jobs and workplace progression have contributed to shocking income inequalities for people with mental health problems.
- It is calling for both emergency and systemic reforms to end the ‘mental health income gap’, by ensuring more people with mental illness can thrive in work during the pandemic and beyond.
Research conducted for the Mental Health and Income Commission shows that typical income for people with common mental health conditions is £8,400 lower than for the rest of the population (1) — leaving this group much more exposed to financial hardship during the pandemic.
The Commission’s final report (published today) warns that a significant cause of this ‘mental health income gap’ is the barriers to employment and job progression that people with mental health problems face — ranging from a lack of flexible working practices to discrimination in the workplace. New national polling published (2) in the report shows that:
- Two thirds (68%) of people with mental health problems who have ever asked an employer for reasonable adjustments said their requests were either rejected (20%) or only partly met (48%).
- One in five (19%) people with mental health problems — equivalent to 3.7m people across the UK — say they have suffered workplace discrimination due to their mental health (including being passed over for promotion or being made redundant).
- As a result of these problems, many people with poor mental health have benefitted from the greater flexibility that employers have offered during lockdown — and are concerned about losing this when normal work practices resume.
- More than four in ten (43%) people with mental health problems say they are worried about returning to their usual working arrangements after lockdown, amounting to 5m people in total. In contrast, only 30% of the wider workforce shares this concern (3).
The Commission recommends emergency measures that government should adopt to help people with mental health problems stay in work during the pandemic, as well as long term changes to tackle the systemic employment issues which have driven the ‘mental health income gap’:
- Introduce a right to flexible working for all employees during the pandemic. Currently, employees have the right to request flexible working, but this can be easily rejected by employers. Requiring employers to offer flexible working practices during the pandemic would help more people with poor mental health to continue to work, and would increase income security.
- Increase levels of Statutory Sick Pay, and ensure more workers can access it. People with mental health problems are more likely to need time off work due to illness. But many struggle to get by with the current rate of SSP (£95.85 per week), while workers who earn less than £120 per week are ineligible for it. Increasing the generosity of SSP — and making it a basic employment right for all workers — would help prevent existing income inequalities from growing during the pandemic.
- Require employers to report on the mental health pay gap and on flexible working requests. The government should make it mandatory for companies with over 250 staff to report on the pay gap between employees with mental health problems and others, and the number of flexible working requests denied and granted. This would help expose inequalities in the workplace and discriminatory work practices.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“If the government is serious about ‘building back better’, it must address the employment barriers that are leaving many people with mental health problems dreading a return to normal after the pandemic. The way the country has adapted to home working and other flexible arrangements has proved that we can do it. For millions of people with poor mental health, the idea of going back to business-as-usual — and losing this flexibility — is a huge worry.
“We’re calling for urgent action from government to ensure that people with mental health problems are not left behind in the aftermath of the pandemic. That means expanding access to flexible working, improving support for those both in and out of employment, and exposing employers who are failing to do their bit.
“People with mental health problems have been more likely to be on low incomes for decades. The pandemic has not only exposed this inequality, it looks set to make it worse. We’re calling for urgent action from the government to put this right.”
To set up an interview, or for any other media enquiries, please contact Brian Semple, Head of External Affairs at Money and Mental Health, on 07935 216 804 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|NOTES TO EDITORS
About the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is an independent charity set up by Martin Lewis, and committed to breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems. We conduct research, develop practical policy solutions and work in partnership with both those providing services and those using them to find what really works. www.moneyandmentalhealth.org
About the Mental Health and Income Commission
The Mental Health and Income Commission is a panel of experts from the worlds of business, politics, trade unions and mental health, set up by Money and Mental Health to examine how people’s mental health affects the income they receive through work, benefits and other sources.