Skip to main content Accessibility help

Employees with mental health problems: Survey of UK employers' knowledge, attitudes and workplace practices

  • Elaine Brohan (a1), Claire Henderson (a1), Kirsty Little (a2) and Graham Thornicroft (a1)


Aim – To investigate whether employers who have experience of hiring people with mental health problems differ significantly from those without such experience in terms of knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding mental health in the workplace, and the concerns which they report about employing people with mental health problems. We also examine whether non-workplace social contact is associated with the above variables. Methods – A telephone survey was conducted with a randomly selected sample of British employers. The sample included a similar number of human resource managers and managers/executive employees in other roles. Results – 502 employers took part. Having employed someone with a mental health problem was associated with closer non-workplace social contact. Those with experience of employing applicants with mental health problems had significant differences in knowledge (regarding the law), and behaviour (having a policy on hiring applicants with disabilities) but not in attitudes. Conclusions – Non-workplace social contact may be useful to consider in understanding hiring practices. The nature of social contact at work and possible lack of impact of this contact on employer attitudes and concerns warrants further study. Greater support is needed for employers to understand the law regarding mental health problems in the workplace.

Declaration of Interest: The study was part funded by Big Lottery and Comic Relief through their funding of the Time to Change programme. The study was also supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) applied programme grant awarded to the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The authors report no conflict of interest in the preparation of this manuscript.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Ms E. Brohan, Institute of Psychiatry, Box PO29, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF (United kingdom). Fax: +44–020–78481462 E-mail:


Hide All
Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA.
Cooper, B. (2009). Strange bedfellows: economics, happiness and mental disorder. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale 18, 210213.
Couture, S.M. & Penn, D.L. (2003). Interpersonal contact and the stigma of mental illness: A review of the literature. Journal of Mental Health 12, 291305.
Diksa, E.J. & Rogers, E.S. (1996). Employer concerns about hiring persons with psychiatric disability: results of the Employer Attitude Questionnaire. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin 40, 3144.
Fenton, J.W., O'Hanlon, D. & Allen, D. (2003). Does having been on a ‘section’ reduce your chances of getting a job? Psychiatric Bulletin 27, 177178.
Hand, C. & Tryssenaar, J. (2006). Small business employers' views on hiring individuals with mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 29, 166173.
Hazer, J.T. & Bedell, K.V. (2000). Effects of seeking accommodation and disability on preemployment evaluations. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 30, 12011223.
Kolodziej, M.E. & Johnson, B.T. (1996). Interpersonal contact and acceptance of persons with psychiatric disorders: a research synthesis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 64, 13871396.
Little, K., Henderson, C., Brohan, E. & Thornicroft, G. (in press). Employers' attitudes to people with mental health problems in the work place in Britain: changes between 2006 and 2009. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale.
Manning, C. & White, P.D. (1995). Attitudes of employers to the mentally ill. Psychiatric Bulletin 19, 541543.
Mental Health Foundation (2002). Out at Work. A Survey of the Experiences of People with Mental Health Problems within the Workplace. Mental Health Foundation: London.
Pettigrew, T.F. & Tropp, L.R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90, 751783.
Shaw, Trust (2006). Mental Health: the Last Workplace Taboo. Shaw Trust: London.
Thornicroft, G., Rose, D., Kassam, A. & Sartorius, N. (2007). Stigma: ignorance, prejudice or discrimination? British Journal of Psychiatry 190, 192193.
Thornicroft, G., Brohan, E., Rose, D., Sartorius, N., Leese, M. & the INDIGO Study Group (2009). Global pattern of experienced and anticipated discrimination against people with schizophrenia: a cross-sectional survey. Lancet 373, no. 9661, 408415.
Wahl, O.F. (1999). Mental health consumers' experience of stigma. Schizophrenia Bulletin 25, 467478.
Warner, R. (2008). Implementing local projects to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale 17, 2025.
Wheat, K., Brohan, E., Henderson, C. & Thornicroft, G. (2010). How should doctors advise people with mental illness who are seeking work? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 103, 8386.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed