Employees who experience mental ill-health earn up to 42 per cent less than their colleagues, according to research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which suggests conditions such as depression, phobias and panic attacks have a dramatic effect on progression inside organisations.
For every pound earned by a male worker without a mental health condition, a colleague who suffers phobias or panic attacks earns just 58 pence, according to the analysis of reported earnings. When it comes to anxiety or depression, the gap stands at 26 pence.
The effect is less pronounced for female employees, with women who suffer anxiety or depression earning 10 pence less for every pound.
EHRC chair David Issac described the figures as the “hidden disgrace of British society’s pay gap for men and women living with depression and panic attacks. There is still a large and unexplained gap, and the impact of discrimination and stigmatisation as underlying factors should not be underestimated.”
Isaac urged ministers to target legislation at such pay gaps as part of the government’s promise to improve mental health support. “Business leaders and government must get together to understand why this is happening and ensure that employers have the right policies and culture to protect and support people with mental health issues at work and help them develop in their chosen careers,” he said.
A separate study, the British Social Attitudes survey, recently revealed evidence of prejudice towards employees who suffer with mental health conditions in the workplace. It found that just 17 per cent of respondents believe that a person with depression who has their condition under control with medication is as likely as others to get promoted. The figure for schizophrenia dropped to 8 per cent.
Around a third said that someone’s medical history with either condition should be taken into account when it came to promotion decisions.
Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said:
“It’s unacceptable that people with mental health problems earn less than those without mental health problems. Staff who have a mental health problem can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace. People with mental health problems face barriers in getting into and staying in work. Many don’t feel comfortable disclosing a mental health problem to their employer, often fearing they’ll be perceived as weak, incompetent or unable to cope.”
However, Mamo added that employers’ attitudes towards recruiting and supporting people with mental health challenges were “improving” and that many organisations were now putting far more effective measures in place to support employees’ overall wellbeing.