How mental health support from employers can help more people return to work

12 Jan 2024

In her latest blog, Julie Graham, CEO of Ingeus’s Employment Services, explores the role of employers in offering mental health support in the workplace, and explains why one size really doesn’t fit all.

Ingeus welcomes jobseekers facing mental health challenges through its doors every single day. For many, their symptoms have been exacerbated by long-term unemployment and then the potential anxiety starting a new job can bring.

As an employability provider, we work alongside thousands of employers to support people with mental health barriers to re-enter the world of work. Our teams of advisors are dedicated to finding the best match for each person, guiding and supporting them personally in their employment journey. When they leave our services, they need the right kind of support in their workplace to sustain their progress.

With mounting pressures outside of the workplace – thanks to the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and the many other worries today’s society brings – demand for mental health services, inside and outside of work, is more prevalent than ever.

Earlier this year Ingeus conducted research through the 2023 Ingeus Disability Diversity and Inclusivity Index and the results reflected a worrying pattern: the number of disabled people with a mental health condition has grown by a million people between 2013 and 2022. That’s a staggering 84% increase.

As employers, we have an organisational and moral duty to be mindful of our employees’ mental health. Everyone’s needs are different, and I believe it’s most definitely a case of ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. Yet employers can make a start by putting the basics in place and help reverse this worrying upward trend.

When employers don’t act to put support in place, the consequences can be devastating. Not only is increased absenteeism costly, but a lack of support to an individual when they need it most can change their lives forever. Feelings of low self-worth, loneliness, stress and anxiety, among others, can leave lasting imprints – we see these negative consequences on a daily basis in participants joining our employability programmes.

Recognition of the long-term impact positive support can have on an individual’s mental health is coming to the fore. Recently we launched Pioneer, a new addition to the Department for Work and Pension’s Work and Health Programme (and part of the first phase of the government’s Universal Support) which Ingeus has delivered regionally for the past five years. Through Pioneer, we offer a truly personalised approach to anyone who is unemployed with a disability or health condition, has limited capability to work, and is unsure what their next steps should be.

We understand that developing confidence is key. Seemingly simple things can seem unsurmountable when you’ve lost faith in yourself or are navigating unfamiliar territory – like the world of work. The reassurance of an experienced support ally when starting work is a lifeline for many, without which jobs would be out of reach, or quickly fail.

I believe employers across the UK would welcome support, like that given by Pioneer, when recruiting. Nearly 60% of employers who have recruited people with a disability in the last 12 months have used an employability provider. Organisations such as Ingeus are here to help, aiding employers’ understanding of the advantages and responsibilities of employing disabled people and giving them access to willing, work-ready applicants.

Ingeus prides itself on being a Disability Confident Leader, and we are always willing to share our knowledge and experience with other employers, helping them to attract, recruit and retain disabled employees.

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