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Employees with mental health issues feel less likely to progress

Research launched ahead of World Mental Health Day shows employers must do more to ensure those with mental health conditions have equal opportunities to progress at work

More than a quarter (26%) of employees with a history of mental health conditions believe they don't have equal access to career progression opportunities because of it, according to research from Hays.

The same proportion (26%) of employees also said their mental health record has affected their chances of being selected for a job. These concerns are clearly affecting how open employees feel they can be with employers about their mental health, as 60% of employees who have/had a mental health condition said they are uncomfortable providing information on their mental health status when applying for a job.

The research, conducted ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, also highlighted disadvantages people with mental health conditions face with regards to equal pay. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents felt their pay was not as high as those who had not disclosed a mental health condition. This was more apparent in the public sector, with 33% of respondents feeling pay was unequal compared to 28% in the private sector.

There is also a clear disparity when it comes to experiences of mental health among different seniorities. Twenty-nine per cent of graduates and 30% of junior employees said they have experienced a mental health condition, compared to 20% of directors and 16% of C-suite staff.

This was also reflected in generational differences, with almost 39% of those aged 25 and younger saying they have experienced a mental health condition, compared to 22% of those aged 55 and older.

The survey also found regional differences in the prevalence of mental health conditions, with a fifth (20%) of professionals working in London having experienced a mental health condition compared to more than a third (35%) of professionals in Wales, 32% in the North East, and 21% in the West Midlands.

Yvonne Smyth, group head of diversity and inclusion at Hays, said that employers must look for ways to ensure those with mental health conditions have equal opportunities to progress at work. “It’s clear from our research that employers need to step up to negate the concerns employees have around unequal access to career progression linked with mental health,” she said.

"Structured career progression plans for all professionals regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or mental health history can help address this – and support everybody, regardless of background, to achieve their full potential within an organisation.”

She added that small steps can make a big difference in improving life at work for people who are struggling with their mental health: “For employers it may be small steps initially, such as talking more openly about mental health and what resources are available, or ensuring managers have access to training in order to better spot signs of mental ill health.”

2,653 employees were surveyed for Hays' research. Twenty-five per cent of those surveyed had a mental health condition.

Further reading

The line manager's role in mental wellbeing

Spotting the signs of mental ill health

Don't be scared of the mental health conversation

Measuring mental health intervention ROI