Mental Health Awareness week: employers must make reasonable adjustments and accommodate those caring for people with mental health illness

unite-white-out-of-redUnpredictability of mental health problems leaves parents and carers needing employment flexibility at times of crisis

Latest statistics show increasing numbers of children being referred to Mental Health specialists

May 14th: Unite Equality Officer, Taryn Trainor, called on employers to adopt specific provisions for employees who had caring responsibilities for someone with mental health illness.

“A parent, guardian or carer for someone, especially a child, with mental health illness can be faced with acute periods of stress or pressure as a result of the unpredictable demands made as a result of the condition. It is vital that employers ensure that their policies make special provision for such circumstances and offer the flexibility that the worker needs at such times.

“This is an increasingly prevalent situation. Today statistics released for England show a spike of at least one third in the numbers of children aged eleven and less who are being referred to mental health support services in the last five years. The situation in Northern Ireland is known to be the same – except the impact of austerity cuts on the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) means that children referred for support are often ‘bounced back’ or face extended delays in receiving treatment or intervention.

“In 2016, the last year for which statistics are available, almost 8,300 children were referred to services for young people who have a mental illness that has a ‘severe or enduring impact on their daily psychological, social and/or educational functioning’ – but of this total, 42 per cent were not accepted by CAMHS.

“In such circumstances, parents or guardians who are trying to balance the needs and concerns for their children with the demands of keeping a job face acute pressures and stress from other aspects of their lives. This can result in them parents and carers themselves suffering from mental health illness. The workplace can often be the place where such problems first manifest and can also be an opportunity for them to be addressed early.

“Unite is calling on all employers in Northern Ireland to adopt a progressive policy in relation to Mental Health. Our union will be including the Equality Commission’s Mental Health Charter in all future pay claims. That must include provision for reasonable adjustment for those dealing directly or indirectly with mental health illness and the roll-out of campaigns such as the regional Change Your Mind initiative to end the silence of stigma. Such moves are essential to establish and maintain a mentally healthy, resilient workplace”, Ms Trainor concluded.

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