Compared to Baby Boomers, Gen Y employers are far more likely to be accepting of and employ candidates with mental illnesses, a report from McNair Ingenuity and WISE Employment has found.
The research surveyed 276 Australian SMEs, and found that 42% of Gen Y was likely to hire someone with mental illness, compared to 16% of Baby Boomers.
Matthew Lambelle, general manager of strategy and alliance at WISE Employment, said that this contrast offered hope to those with mental illnesses as Gen Y gains more hiring authority within organisations.
However, while the results may be promising for Gen Y, they still paint a bleak overall view for job-seekers suffering from mental illness. Twenty-seven per cent of all hiring managers stated they were willing to give someone with a mental illness a chance – 34% were “on the fence”, with 39% unlikely to employ a mental illness sufferer.
The main concerns that prevented them from hiring were fears of unpredictable or unstable behaviour (61%), a lack of understanding from co-workers (47%), and the inability to do the work (47%).
Mental illnesses deemed most ‘acceptable’ were depression (37%) and anxiety (32%).
Lambelle criticised these concerns as stigma-driven perceptions out of touch with reality.
“The majority of employers who had hired a person with a mental illness [found] the experience positive or very positive … less than one in ten reported a negative experience,” he said.
With Mental Health Week starting on Monday, employers should re-evaluate their perceptions of those with mental illnesses. Employers who have had positive experiences with mentally ill workers reported them to be hardworking (60%), fitting in well with the team (57%), and generally good for the company (51%).
Other key findings included:
21% of employers cited hiring someone with a mental illness was “too great a risk”.
62% stated their experience hiring a person with mental illness had been positive or very positive.
Those who had employed someone with a mental illness said giving someone a fair go (55%) and because they were the best candidate (33%) as the top reasons for doing so.
Employers stated they would be more likely to hire someone with a mental illness if they knew the employee was loyal and committed (41%), would be willing to take part in a ‘no strings’ attached trial period (40%), and if ongoing support and follow up from an outside agency was provided (36%).
Most employers (71%) were unaware of employment services that help those with mental illnesses find work. Eighty-one per cent were unaware of the support available for organisations who hire sufferers.
Do you employ any workers with mental illnesses? Please share your experiences in the comments.