Mental health and employment

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Executive summary

  • There is a persistent and significant employment gap between people defined as disabled under the Equality Act (EA) and non-disabled people. The TUC would like this employment gap to be eliminated.
  • The 2015 government had a commitment to halve the disability employment gap by 2020. This was a welcome pledge but on current trends it will not be achieved.
  • There has been an increase in the employment rate of disabled people between 2013 and 2016. While this increase is positive, the latest employment figures for disabled people in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2016 are still only 50 per cent, with just under 3.5 million disabled people in employment. The employment rate for non EA disabled people in Q4 2016 was significantly higher at 80.4 per cent (TUC analysis of Labour Force Survey).
  • Labour Force Survey analysis of health problems lasting or expected to last more than one year that primarily stem from mental health problems (either ‘depression, bad nerves and anxiety’ or ‘mental illness, or suffer from phobia, panics or other mental disorders’) shows that mental health problems are a significant barrier to getting into work.
  • Disabled people with long term depression and particularly those with mental illness or phobias are under-represented in employment. 45.5 per cent of disabled people with health problems lasting or expected to last more than one year who had depression and anxiety as their main health problem, were in employment (471,725 people). Just 26.2 per cent of disabled people experiencing long term mental illness or phobias as their primary, or most significant, health issue, were in employment (118,342 people).
  • The TUC believes in the social model of disability which emphasises the barriers placed in the way of disabled people’s inclusion, and places the onus on the employer to make changes to the workplace to make it accessible to disabled people. Many disabled people are prevented from working because adequate adjustments are not made in the workplace to enable them to do so. This is also important as some people may become disabled while they are at work, which may require adaptations to their job. And some people have to leave work due to becoming disabled because they do not get the right changes in the workplace.
  • Significant government and employer action is therefore still required to address the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people.

Introduction

This report looks at the employment of disabled people and in particular examines the employment of people with depression and mental illness. It builds on TUC research published in 2015 ‘Disability and employment: a social model study of the employment experiences of disabled people in Britain, with a focus on mental illness' and 2016 analysis on disability and employment.

Disability is not just a barrier to getting employment. Some people may become disabled while they are at work, which may require adaptations to their job. And some people have to leave work due to becoming disabled because they do not get the right changes to their workplace.

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