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London employers urged to tackle mental ill health at work

Delegates at a conference jointly organised by the specialist employment services provider Remploy, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Business Disability Forum will hear that much more needs to be done to prevent people with mental health issues falling out of work and ending up on benefits.

A recent YouGov survey for the Institute of Directors showed that only 7 per cent of employers have discussed mental health issues with their staff and three quarters of businesses don’t have a mental health policy in place.

“These worrying statistics show that there is still much to be done to combat discrimination against employees who have mental health issues,” said Claire Hodgkins, Remploy’s National Vocational Rehabilitation Service manager. “Mental ill health at work is estimated to be costing UK employers &pound26bn a year – or &pound1,035 per employee – so the need for action couldn’t be more urgent.”

In December 2011 Remploy won contracts to run the Government’s flagship Workplace Mental Health Support Service (WMHSS) and since then it has helped almost 3,500 people who were at risk of losing their jobs because of their mental health conditions.

WMHSS, which is part of the Government’s Access to Work scheme, provides six months’ work-based support to enable individuals with mental health conditions to stay in work. The impartial and confidential service comes at no cost to either employer or employee, can be delivered with or without the support of the employer and is delivered by experts who understand mental health and its impact in the workplace.

 “More than 90 per cent of clients who completed the scheme are still in work, which is hugely encouraging and testament to the success of this vital service,” added Claire.

“WMHSS is becoming more well-known and its success stories are a big factor in that. It is helping employees manage their condition at work and stay well and productive. It is also helping employers create an inclusive and diverse workforce and reducing absence and turnover.” 

Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, said: “At any given time one in six people have a common mental health condition like anxiety or depression. If employers are not considering people with mental health conditions for jobs they are losing out on the talents of a sixth of the working age population.

“It’s great to hear some fantastic examples of big businesses doing the right thing and supporting people with mental health conditions.”

The conference, attended by major employers including Royal Mail Group, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer  and Lloyds Banking Group will also hear from two people who have successfully completed the WMHSS programme and as a result are still in work.

Cathrine Jones, a warehouse operative at an Asda distribution centre in Bedford has dyslexia, stress and depression. “When you have mental health issues you tend to be labelled, which only makes matters worse,” she said. “But WMHSS has been such a positive experience for me and has helped turn my life around.”

Andrew Pick, a self-employed estate manager from Guildford, Surrey was “ready to give up” when failed eye surgery left him at risk of total blindness. “Being referred to Remploy for mental health support was the best thing that could have happened to me,” he said. “My Remploy advisor helped me realise I still had a future.”


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