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Only 1 in 4 people with a long-term mental illness are in work, says TUC

18 May 2017

Only 1 in 4 (26.2%) people with a mental illness or phobia lasting for 12 months or more are in work, according to a report published by the TUC to coincide with its Disabled Workers’ Conference today (Thursday).

The report, Mental health and employment, contains new analysis of official employment statistics, which finds that while 4 in 5 (80.4%) non-disabled people are in work, people with mental illness, anxiety or depression have substantially lower employment rates:

  • Only 1 in 4 (26.2%) people with a mental illness lasting (or expected to last) more than a year are in work.
  • Less than half (45.5%) of people with depression or anxiety lasting more than 12 months are in work.

The TUC is concerned that this suggests employers are failing to make adequate changes in the workplace to enable people with mental illnesses, anxiety or depression to get a job, or stay in work. Mental health problems can often be 'invisible' to others, so a lack of mental health awareness amongst managers and employers is also likely to be a factor.

The employment rate for disabled people is increasing, but too slowly for the government to reach its target of halving the disability employment gap by 2020. The TUC estimates it will take until 2025 for those classified in official figures as having long-term depression and anxiety, and until 2029 for people classified as having long-term mental illness.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s simply not good enough that so few people with long-term mental health problems are able to stay in work.

“Not only is the economy missing out on the skills and talents these workers have, but having to leave your job can worsen your mental health.

“The next government and employers must do more to support people with mental health conditions. Simple steps like giving an employee paid time off to go to counselling appointments can make a huge difference.

“All over the country, union reps are helping working people who have mental health conditions. They help with getting bosses to make reasonable adjustments, so that people can stay in work. And they negotiate better support from employers for workers who become ill or disabled. It’s one of the many reasons why everyone should get together with their workmates and join a union.”

The TUC report Mental health and employment is available at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Mental_Health_and_Employment.pdf

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