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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness
 Work and mental health

Recruiting employees with a history of mental ill health

Employers have a legal requirement to ensure they are not discriminating against anyone who has a mental health problem.

When recruiting staff, employers have a legal requirement to ensure they are not discriminating against anyone who has a mental health problem.  The mental health charity Rethink stresses that people with mental health problems often have qualities that people without do not readily possess.  The Working Minds campaign by MindOut highlighted the positive aspects someone with a mental health problem can bring to a job.  This includes:

  • Problem solving
  • Ability to work with and relate to different sorts of people
  • Tenacity
  • Diplomacy
  • Creativity

Given that one in five employees already has a mental health problem and one in three of the working-age population may be experiencing some type of mental health condition, the answer isn’t to avoid hiring people who may have a mental health problem now or in the past. 

When companies that have employed people with a mental health problem were surveyed, 85% of them did not regret the decision or find it a negative experience.

If as an employer, you get the process of recruitment right, you will be building a positive working relationship with your new employee from the start.  It makes it much more likely that you will create an environment whereby your employees will be honest and open with you about their personal information.  You will increase the chance that you will be able to put in place working arrangements that increase the chance that your employees are productive, efficient and happy. 


Links to resources:

SHiFT line managers web resource

Shift is a Department of Health-funded initiative to tackle stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues in England.  The Myth buster section on mental health and employment uses the facts and figures to counter the common myths and misconceptions about mental health and the effect that mental ill-health has on employees ability to work productively.



Rethink, the leading national mental health membership charity, works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life.  This part of the website includes the link to resources specifically for employers.


Employers’ Forum on Disability

Employers' Forum on Disability is an employers' organisation focused on disability as it affects business. The forum includes employers from multinational corporations, Small and Medium sized Enterprises and the public sector. This section of the website contains advice and information on recruiting disabled people, including people with mental health conditions.

Time to change
Is an ambitious programme to end discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems.  The programme is a partnership between the national mental health charities, MIND and Rethink, and is evaluated by the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London.  The website includes information specifically for employers looking at recruitment issues.