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Mental Illness Study Reveals Workplace ‘Fear Factor’


7 October 2014 at 3:47 pm
Xavier Smerdon
One in five Australians are potentially being overlooked for job opportunities due to the ‘fear factor’ in hiring people who have a mental illness, according to new Not for Profit research.

Xavier Smerdon | 7 October 2014 at 3:47 pm


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Mental Illness Study Reveals Workplace ‘Fear Factor’
7 October 2014 at 3:47 pm

One in five Australians are potentially being overlooked for job opportunities due to the ‘fear factor’ in hiring people who have a mental illness, according to new Not for Profit research.

The Empowermental research report, released by WISE Employment explores the attitudes of 256 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Australia towards hiring disadvantaged people including those who have a mental illness.

The research found that two in five employers would not consider employing someone who has a mental illness citing unpredictable and changeable behaviour (57 per cent), possibility of a breakdown (54 per cent) and too many sick days (43 per cent) as the biggest barriers.

Employers prioritised hiring job seekers without any TAFE or tertiary experience (66 per cent), who are learning English as a second language (43 per cent) or who have a physical disability (50 per cent) over hiring someone who has a mental illness (29 per cent), even if they were qualified for the job.

“These stigmatised views remain relatively unchanged from the first Empowermental research report in 2012, and holding onto them isn’t doing Australian businesses any favours,” CEO of WISE Employment Matt Lambelle said.

“Sadly, many employers still hold inaccurate fears and perceptions of mental illness which affects one in five Australians. If employers remain uneducated about mental health and fear hiring people who have a mental illness, they’re missing out on a huge pool of untapped skill and talent.

“The majority of employers who have hired someone with a known mental illness described the experience as positive or very positive. By sharing their stories we want to help employers shake off misinformed perceptions so they can start to see a job seeker who has a mental illness can be the best person for the job.”

On the positive side, the research showed six in 10 employers (63 per cent) who have taken the step of hiring someone who has a mental illness reported positive results. Employers stated the employee fitted in well with the team (78 per cent), was hardworking (67 per cent) and was good for the company (53 per cent).

“The Empowermental research report, commissioned by McNair Research, forms part of WISE Employment’s three year campaign to break down stigma and encourage Australian businesses to consider employing people who have mental illness,” Lambelle said.

Other findings include:

  • 68 per cent of employers who have employed a person who has a mental illness still do.

  • 34 per cent of all managers have a friend or someone close to them with a mental illness and 26 per cent have a member of their family who has a mental illness.

  • 26 per cent of employers would consider hiring a person who has a known mental illness.

  • 42 per cent of SMEs had never been approached by anyone asking them to consider employing a person with a mental illness.

  • 22 per cent had a lack of awareness of the support and resources available to them if they chose to employ a person with a mental illness.

WISE Employment is a Not for Profit employment services provider that helps employers to hire job seekers from disadvantaged backgrounds, including people who have a mental illness.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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