Tag Archives: Work

The Guardian view on 50 years of legal abortion: let’s finish the work | Editorial

It is 50 years on Friday since David Steel’s abortion act became law. It did not come into force until the following April. In those six months, it is likely that around 70 women died from sepsis or some other cause resulting from illegal abortion: in the previous decade, it claimed at least 150 lives a year, the biggest single cause of maternal mortality. Activists in a campaign that began in the 1930s toasted victory with champagne. But one veteran, who had had an illegal abortion herself, dampened the celebrations. They should be drinking half-glasses, she said, for the job was only half done.

Nonetheless, in the past 50 years millions of women have benefited from access to safe abortion. It has transformed the future for many girls and women – young women in particular, for the peak age for abortion is 19; it is also disproportionately in demand in poorer parts of England and Wales. There are now around 200,000 abortions recorded each year, but almost all of them – 92% – take place in the first trimester of pregnancy. No one likes carrying out an abortion, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, but the alternative – illegal, unsafe abortion – is worse.

Yet reforming the law does remain a job half done. The Abortion Act 1967 did not decriminalise termination; it merely introduced a very narrow set of exemptions from the criminal law, a tiny window where abortion was legal, restricted by the requirement that two doctors agree that carrying a pregnancy to term would be a greater risk than termination, or that the unborn child had such physical or mental abnormalities that it would be seriously handicapped.

Over time, these rules have been interpreted much less restrictively. But even if practice has changed, they are still in force, and abortion remains a criminal offence both for the woman and for medical practitioners. Every doctor is aware that they remain open to prosecution. Nor is it only in Northern Ireland that women who buy abortion pills online are open to prosecution. An adult woman still does not have the autonomy to make one of the most fundamental decisions about her body and her life. And for all those involved – women and health practitioners – the climate around abortion remains punitive.

Yet despite the strength of argument for reform, this is perilous territory. In the past half century, for every tentative attempt to complete the process of liberalising the law, there have been a score or more efforts to restrict it further. Only one has succeeded, a cut in the maximum term from 28 to 24 weeks – but in an age of culture wars, this is a field aggressively patrolled by anti-abortion activists, many of whom are part of a revivalist right that sanctifies motherhood and sees every liberal advance as a cautionary tale about modernity.

And yet, in March this year, Diana Johnson, the Kingston upon Hull MP, successfully won a vote on a backbench bill to decriminalise abortion. Although the general election intervened, MPs believe there is still a pro-change majority in the Commons and in the Lords. Nor is it only campaigners in parliament who think that the time has come for further reform. One reason for the new optimism is that for the first time, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists all now support decriminalisation. The professionals who are most closely involved in reproductive health, trained and qualified people devoted to securing and protecting healthy lives for women and babies, believe that it is necessary to change the law to reflect the way the world has changed since 1967.

Changes in practice mean most abortions are now medical rather than surgical; a steady rise in early terminations has accompanied the widespread introduction of drugs that trigger abortion. Experience in Canada and parts of Australia where decriminalisation has been introduced shows it has not led to a surge in abortion. Above all, decriminalisation does not mean deregulation. The Johnson bill would have made no change at all to the existing restrictions on, for example, the 24-week limit or the ban on sex-selection abortion. It continued to recognise that there are deeply held conscientious objections. It could have introduced new criminal sanctions on those who coerce or deceive women into abortion. Abortion has always been polarising. But this is a job half done, and it’s time to complete it.

Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t work – I’m proof | Hannah Jane Parkinson

It’s official. The government-commissioned Thriving at Work report has found that many of us are not, in fact, thriving at work. About 300,000 of us with long-term mental health problems lose their job each year in the UK. For me, this is news alongside sky is blue; Liverpool FC are perpetually underachieving; David Davis understands the Brexit process as much as he does superstring theory.

We have been saying this for a long time. We the people who know. The people with mental illness; the mental health professionals; the experts and charity heads; and in some cases, the employers. It’s a positive step that Theresa May commissioned this report. It’s a travesty that it was such a long time coming.

The tactics shifted a while ago. Some of us stopped appealing to this government’s sense of altruism and began arguing that “it’s the economy, stupid.” Once again, it has been confirmed that the annual cost to the country of poor mental health is £99bn. This isn’t a revelation. I’ve been writing about it for four years, so have many others. The UK’s productivity is in the doldrums. The financial cost to employers is about £42bn.

Let me tell you about working with a severe, long-term mental illness (in my case, bipolar disorder). Bipolar disorder is a cyclical illness. Those cycles will vary, according to the illness’s subsets, from rapid cycling disorder to episodes that happen with years in between. For me, my condition is “managed” by medication and mental health services.

So it goes a bit like this: for a big chunk of each year I’ll probably spend time off. In the past couple of years that has meant stints in hospital, sometimes writing on zero sleep, or even having to tell an editor that I couldn’t file because of the small inconvenience of being sectioned. Then, the long walks to recuperate, the nurturing back to health. Then the return to work.


There’s a crisis safety net when individuals reach the nadir, and that’s it

But I’m one of the lucky ones. When I joined the Guardian, a care plan was set up. It was distributed to my line managers so they knew the score and could notice any signs of impending episodes. I have had the support of three assigned HR personnel and also my colleagues, both senior and peers, formally and informally. They took the time to learn about my illness and how they could best understand and support it. All of this is the kind of thing employers should be doing as standard, and is numbered among the 40 recommendations made in the Thriving at Work report.

Last week, on a panel, someone asked me: “Is it worth it for employers?” It’s a fair question – undoubtedly sometimes I’m a pain in the arse. But how many of us have colleagues with no mental health problems but who are also a pain in the arse: underperforming, lazy, bullying, inefficient. I don’t think I’m any of those things. In my experience people with mental health problems are incredibly hard workers – they grab hold of those periods of wellness, desperate to make the most of them. Despite an illness that is chronic, I have achieved much in my professional life. Other people won’t have such chronic illnesses but experience a period of mental ill health and make a full recovery.

But here is where I am not lucky: my recent experiences of NHS mental health care characterise, as the report put it, “a lack of speedy access to mental health services”. The trust I am under has had some incredible professionals who have cared for me, but in many ways I have been catastrophically let down. I will always remember having a conversation with occupational health at work, who were fully supportive but wanted to know what measures I had in place before I returned to work.

They were flabbergasted when I said I had no formal measures in place, and that it wasn’t for want of trying. It was because our NHS has been reduced to skin and bone. Therapy waiting lists, as in my case, can last two years. Named psychiatrists are becoming rarer, being passed around services more common. Consistent support is almost nonexistent. There’s a crisis safety net when individuals reach the nadir, and that’s it. It doesn’t take a genius to realise this is not conducive to individuals working well and staying healthy – something the report noted.

Other welcome recommendations included a shoring up of the Equality Act 2010, and I’d add to that employers becoming more creative and flexible in their recruitment. If someone has been unwell, they may well have gaps in their CV. This might not have any impact on how competent they are, or how good a potential employee. Look at the number of successful people who have been open about their mental illness, from politicians to actors to company chief executives.

Finally, we need to broaden the mental health “debate” to include illnesses other than the more commonly experienced mental health difficulties. We need to properly arm employers with the information about conditions other than the thankfully now more understood depression and generalised anxiety disorder. If I hadn’t sat down with HR and made that care plan, I doubt they would have been remotely prepared or in a position to support me. The report has recommended core standards to change this, so employers “know what to do”. Good.

Unfortunately, some people will be too unwell to work – that’s the case for both mental and physical illness. The government must provide the benefits and care packages that are required. It’s what any moral society should do. Nobody chooses to be ill, and nobody should be punished for it. But for those with mental health problems who are able to work, we must do more to recruit and retain them. That way everyone benefits.

Hannah Jane Parkinson writes for the Guardian on pop culture, music, tech, football, politics and mental health

Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t work – I’m proof | Hannah Jane Parkinson

It’s official. The government-commissioned Thriving at Work report has found that many of us are not, in fact, thriving at work. About 300,000 of us with long-term mental health problems lose their job each year in the UK. For me, this is news alongside sky is blue; Liverpool FC are perpetually underachieving; David Davis understands the Brexit process as much as he does superstring theory.

We have been saying this for a long time. We the people who know. The people with mental illness; the mental health professionals; the experts and charity heads; and in some cases, the employers. It’s a positive step that Theresa May commissioned this report. It’s a travesty that it was such a long time coming.

The tactics shifted a while ago. Some of us stopped appealing to this government’s sense of altruism and began arguing that “it’s the economy, stupid.” Once again, it has been confirmed that the annual cost to the country of poor mental health is £99bn. This isn’t a revelation. I’ve been writing about it for four years, so have many others. The UK’s productivity is in the doldrums. The financial cost to employers is about £42bn.

Let me tell you about working with a severe, long-term mental illness (in my case, bipolar disorder). Bipolar disorder is a cyclical illness. Those cycles will vary, according to the illness’s subsets, from rapid cycling disorder to episodes that happen with years in between. For me, my condition is “managed” by medication and mental health services.

So it goes a bit like this: for a big chunk of each year I’ll probably spend time off. In the past couple of years that has meant stints in hospital, sometimes writing on zero sleep, or even having to tell an editor that I couldn’t file because of the small inconvenience of being sectioned. Then, the long walks to recuperate, the nurturing back to health. Then the return to work.


There’s a crisis safety net when individuals reach the nadir, and that’s it

But I’m one of the lucky ones. When I joined the Guardian, a care plan was set up. It was distributed to my line managers so they knew the score and could notice any signs of impending episodes. I have had the support of three assigned HR personnel and also my colleagues, both senior and peers, formally and informally. They took the time to learn about my illness and how they could best understand and support it. All of this is the kind of thing employers should be doing as standard, and is numbered among the 40 recommendations made in the Thriving at Work report.

Last week, on a panel, someone asked me: “Is it worth it for employers?” It’s a fair question – undoubtedly sometimes I’m a pain in the arse. But how many of us have colleagues with no mental health problems but who are also a pain in the arse: underperforming, lazy, bullying, inefficient. I don’t think I’m any of those things. In my experience people with mental health problems are incredibly hard workers – they grab hold of those periods of wellness, desperate to make the most of them. Despite an illness that is chronic, I have achieved much in my professional life. Other people won’t have such chronic illnesses but experience a period of mental ill health and make a full recovery.

But here is where I am not lucky: my recent experiences of NHS mental health care characterise, as the report put it, “a lack of speedy access to mental health services”. The trust I am under has had some incredible professionals who have cared for me, but in many ways I have been catastrophically let down. I will always remember having a conversation with occupational health at work, who were fully supportive but wanted to know what measures I had in place before I returned to work.

They were flabbergasted when I said I had no formal measures in place, and that it wasn’t for want of trying. It was because our NHS has been reduced to skin and bone. Therapy waiting lists, as in my case, can last two years. Named psychiatrists are becoming rarer, being passed around services more common. Consistent support is almost nonexistent. There’s a crisis safety net when individuals reach the nadir, and that’s it. It doesn’t take a genius to realise this is not conducive to individuals working well and staying healthy – something the report noted.

Other welcome recommendations included a shoring up of the Equality Act 2010, and I’d add to that employers becoming more creative and flexible in their recruitment. If someone has been unwell, they may well have gaps in their CV. This might not have any impact on how competent they are, or how good a potential employee. Look at the number of successful people who have been open about their mental illness, from politicians to actors to company chief executives.

Finally, we need to broaden the mental health “debate” to include illnesses other than the more commonly experienced mental health difficulties. We need to properly arm employers with the information about conditions other than the thankfully now more understood depression and generalised anxiety disorder. If I hadn’t sat down with HR and made that care plan, I doubt they would have been remotely prepared or in a position to support me. The report has recommended core standards to change this, so employers “know what to do”. Good.

Unfortunately, some people will be too unwell to work – that’s the case for both mental and physical illness. The government must provide the benefits and care packages that are required. It’s what any moral society should do. Nobody chooses to be ill, and nobody should be punished for it. But for those with mental health problems who are able to work, we must do more to recruit and retain them. That way everyone benefits.

Hannah Jane Parkinson writes for the Guardian on pop culture, music, tech, football, politics and mental health

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”

Mental health problems are forcing thousands in UK out of work – report

About 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year, a review commissioned by Theresa May has found.

The Thriving at Work report, published on Thursday, puts the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health at up to £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

The authors – the Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and a former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson – said they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions.

Farmer said the evidence suggested it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he said.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

Farmer and Stevenson said that the challenge was bigger than they had envisaged when instructed by the prime minister, but that with action dramatic changes could be achieved over the next 10 years. They said they hoped that the number of people with long-term mental health problems who lose their jobs could be reduced to the same level as those with physical conditions.

They found that about 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, which they said illustrates the fact that given the right support they can thrive in employment.

Farmer described the economic case as overwhelming and the authors link current failures to the UK’s relatively poor productivity. An analysis by Deloitte examining existing workplace interventions identified potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.

Among examples of good practice highlighted by the report are the mental health first aid courses at Thames Water and, at Aviva, the promotion of e-learning modules to help identify and self-identify when people need support.

Farmer and Stevenson said they want all employers to commit to six core standards around mental health, including having a plan in place, increasing awareness among employees, stipulating line management responsibilities and routinely monitoring staff’s mental health and wellbeing. “What we feel is really important is that organisations take responsibility for the mental health of their staff,” said Farmer.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do. That’s why we’ve recommended these core standards.”

Highlighting further benefits for companies, he said that some young people were now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago.

“The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff,” he said.

Large employers are expected to go further and the report calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. It says the government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services, quick and convenient to fit around employment, and consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report makes 40 recommendations and Stevenson urged the government to accept them all. “We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” he said.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, welcomed the review which he said shows “mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Case study: ‘I was using work in a quite self-destructive way’

Andrew Omerod


Andrew Omerod: ‘I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed.’

Andrew Omerod, 35, from London, operations director at GrantTree, says he has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to mental health problems at work. “When I was working for my previous employer, I was using work in quite a self-destructive way. Overworking is a way of acting out the pain you’re experiencing that you don’t know how to express. It’s also a way of escaping it in the short term – but it’s harmful in the long term.

“It was work that led to me having a breakdown. I’d been living with depression a very long time already; work happened to be the way it was expressed. I had to take time off, about a year.

“The thing that was disappointing for me more than anything else was that when I was ready to go to work my employer became quite disruptive. They basically said: ‘You can come back to us but rather than reporting directly to the MD [managing director] you’re going to have to report to someone else who we’ve promoted in your absence.’ So we agreed that I would leave.

“The experience at GrantTree has been very different. I am very passionate about my job, I get caught up in it and here I have colleagues who say to me: ‘You seem to be staying late and taking on quite a lot of stuff, is that sustainable?’ [They are] people who recognise I can fall into this kind of behaviour.”