Employers' attitudes to people with mental health problems in the workplace in Britain: changes between 2006 and 2009

Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2011 Mar;20(1):73-81. doi: 10.1017/s204579601100014x.


Aim: This study examines whether there have been improvements in mental health-related knowledge, attitudes and workplace practices among British employers between 2006 and 2009.

Method: In 2006, the Shaw Trust surveyed 550 British employers. Telephone interviews ascertained their knowledge, attitudes and practices related to mental health in the workplace. This study compares their findings with a repeat survey of 500 employers in 2009.

Results: In 2006, 33% of employers reported that none of their employees would develop a mental health problem during their working lifetime, dropping to 7% in 2009. In both years, less than a third of companies had formal policies on stress and mental health. In 2006, 68% agreed they would be flexible in offering adjustments to someone with mental ill-health, rising to 87% in 2009. In 2006, 76% agreed that British industry needs more support to improving the way it deals with mental health in the workplace, increasing to 88% in 2009.

Conclusions: While employers' mental health knowledge significantly improved and many offer 'reasonable adjustments', there is a need to formalise these arrangements and for further training and support. Resistance to the Equality Bill amendment banning pre-employment health questions, with exceptions, is predicted based on employers' preference for pre-employment disclosure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Policy
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Personnel Management*
  • Personnel Selection
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational
  • United Kingdom
  • Workplace*