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People with common mental disorders have incomes two-thirds that of people without those conditions: new research report

08 February 2021

Those with common mental disorders. like anxiety and depression have typical annual incomes just two-thirds (68%) that of people without those conditions (equivalent to a gap of £8,400 per year), according to a new Mental Health and Income Commission (MHIC) report.

The MHIC comprises of leaders from business, unions, politics, academia and the third sector. It was set up by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI).

The Commission has found that one in five people with mental health problems – equivalent to 3.7m people across the UK – say they have suffered workplace discrimination due to their condition, including being passed over for promotion or being made redundant.

More than two-thirds of people with mental health problems who have ever asked an employer for reasonable adjustments said their requests were either rejected or only partly met.

The Commission says that the Government should adopt several emergency measures to help people with mental health problems stay in work during the pandemic, as well as long term changes to tackle the systemic employment issues which have driven the “mental health income gap”.  

This MIHC report makes a wide ranging set of recommendations to Government and employers, not just to close the mental health income gap, but to prevent it widening even further in the aftermath of the pandemic. These include:

  • introducing a right to flexible working for all employees during the pandemic: Requiring employers to offer flexible working practices during the pandemic would help more people with poor mental health to continue to work, and would increase income security;
  • increasing levels of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and ensure more workers can access it: Many struggle to get by with the current rate of SSP (£95.85 per week), while workers who earn less than £120 per week are ineligible for it. Increasing the generosity of SSP - and making it a basic employment right for all workers - would help prevent existing income inequalities from growing during the pandemic;
  • requiring employers to report on the mental health pay gap and on flexible working requests: The government should make it mandatory for companies with over 250 staff to report on the pay gap between employees with mental health problems and others, and the number of flexible working requests denied and granted. This would help expose inequalities in the workplace and discriminatory work practices; and
  • make the uplift to Universal Credit permanent, extend it to legacy benefits, and suspend benefits conditionality for people who are out of work as a result of their mental health.

Helen Undy of the MMHPI said:

“We’re calling for urgent action from Government to ensure that people with mental health problems are not left behind in the aftermath of the pandemic.

That means expanding access to flexible working, improving support for those both in and out of employment, and exposing employers who are failing to do their bit.

People with mental health problems have been more likely to be on low incomes for decades. The pandemic has not only exposed this inequality, it looks set to make it worse. We’re calling for urgent action from the government to put this right.”

The MIHC report Closing the gap is available from moneyandmentalhealth.org.