Report 48: Mental health, employment and the social care workforce
We are building a society in which no one should be held back from fulfilling their potential to lead full and rewarding lives. Satisfying work can play a huge part in improving and safeguarding our mental health (1)
- The right to work is universal. The Equality Act 2010 and Public Sector duty protects people with mental health problems against employment discrimination. The Government includes improved employment rates for people with mental health problems in their key objectives for mental health and wellbeing.
- Working generally benefits and protects mental health (though stressful work in physically or emotionally unhealthy work environments can cause or worsen mental health problems).
- Employees in social care may be at high risk of poor mental health due to work pressures, however most people in social care say they like their work and find it fulfilling.
- People with mental health problems are more likely than other groups of disabled people to be unemployed. Yet most would like to work, and can do so given suitable job opportunities and reasonable adjustments where needed. They do not have to be fully recovered before returning to work.
- Reasonable adjustment can include flexible work times, working from home, gradual return to work after ill health, part-time working or job shares, a change of tasks, informal mentoring, and involvement in planning one’s workload.
- Social care can benefit from employing more people with mental health problems, who may have a lot to offer as employees. Some social care jobs make personal experience a valued background.
- Programmes to promote health and wellbeing at work can support staff efforts to protect existing employees’ mental health and make it easier to retain and regain staff with mental health problems.
- Long-term absence due to mental health problems can be prevented or helped by early intervention. Successful interventions include telephone support and talking therapies.
- Employment advisors and individual work placement with ongoing support have been found helpful for people who have not worked for some time due to severe mental health problems,
- Interventions must fit the individual, and are more successful with people who are keen to return to work or retain their jobs.
- Employment strategies based on changing individual behaviour need balancing with strategies to improve accessibility of work and healthy work conditions.
- Occupational health staff, human resources staff and line managers are vital in helping to retain and regain staff with mental health problems, and to enable people with longer term mental health problems to become employed.
- Evidence shows that line managers benefit from training in mental health awareness, and from increasing their skills and confidence to engage with employees about their mental health. Training can help staff gain more knowledge about employment rights, reasonable adjustment, and available help and resources to which people can be referred.