Equality law ‘barrier’ for mental health sufferers

A SURVEY of businesses in the south-east has found employers feel that employment equality legislation serves as a barrier to the employment of people with mental health problems.

According to research undertaken by Waterford Institute of Technology and the Health Service Executive, employers feel they may experience employment legislation, health and safety, and insurance issues if they were knowingly to employ someone with a mental health difficulty.

The research team, consisting of Dr John Wells and Jennifer Cunningham, from the Department of Nursing at Waterford Institute of Technology, and David Heffernan, from the Health Service Executive (South), examined employers’ views on disability policy and the employment of people with on-going mental health problems.

Research suggests that policy formulators need to consult at a more local level in order that employers in the south-east receive enough information on 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.”

More in this section