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Published 19 October 2012 09:49, Updated 22 October 2012 05:08
Small business owners remain ambivalent about hiring people with a mental illness, a survey of 250 small and medium businesses by non-profit employment services organisation WISE Employment reports.
More than one third (35 per cent) said they were unlikely to employ someone with a mental illness and another 33 per cent said they were neutral on the question. Only 32 per cent of businesses surveyed indicated that they would employ a person with a mental illness. Six out of 10 organisations surveyed did not have a policy regarding the employment of people with a disability.
The general manager, strategy and alliance, at WISE Employment, Matthew Lambelle, says the “notable stigma” around employing people with a mental illness does not match reality.
“There is a distinct lack of understanding about mental health issues, which fuels stigma and causes some employers to shy away from hiring people with mental illness,” he says.
“The research reveals an underlying assumption among employers that mental illness will inhibit job performance when in fact the two are not linked. A person with a mental illness can be the best person for the job.”
Unpredictable behaviour was the top potential impediment (21 per cent) specifically cited by employers unwilling to take on someone with a mental illness – although half of the respondents admitted to varying concerns about employees with a mental illness being unreliable or disruptive in the workplace.
However, 44 per cent of employers said they would be more likely to consider hiring someone with a mental illness if they had ongoing support and follow-up for their business from an outside agency. Lambelle says free support is available to employers who hire people with a mental illness.
WISE Employment works with jobseekers with mental illness and provides ongoing support to employers and jobseekers after placing people into employment. Further information about support services for employers and jobseekers is available from Job Services Australia and Disability Employment Services. The research was conducted by McNair Ingenuity Research.