One of the main hastags trending on Twitter (today) is #GenderPayGap, prompted by research from The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) “On average, women earn 18% less per hour than men.”
It’s a topic that always sparks a lively debate and all I can reflect on is my own experience, so I shared a story from my past. Once at a company Christmas party an ex colleague drunkenly revealed that he earned £5k more than me, (we did the same job). I won’t go into the details, but it was a shock and I left the company soon after. Boy did my tweet cause an unexpected stir! The general consensus being that I’m either a liar “otherwise it would’ve been reported,” or that my male colleague was simply more deserving.
Equality in the workplace is something that I feel very strongly about. None more so than discrimination against those with mental health conditions. I’m frequently asked about disclosing a condition to an employer and whether it’s a good idea. It’s a difficult question. On the one hand I believe that full disclosure can help to alleviate pressure, but then I’ve also heard stories from readers who’ve been penalised as a result of their honesty. Read my other post ‘Mental Health and the Workplace’ here
The Gender Pay Gap debate reminded me of a report that I read at the start of August. Evidence collected by the Human Rights Commission showed that those with mental health illnesses earn a staggering 42% less than the average employee.
“For every pound that a non-disabled man earns, men who have conditions such as phobias or panic attacks earn only 58p.”
Read the full article here
42%? That’s beyond outrageous and borders on hilarity. How can one even begin to justify or explain this?
Let me pre-empt the main excuses:
- They have time off work – True, but so do those who have physical conditions such as a broken leg, recovery from an operation, or severe illness. Furthermore, if the person in question receives the proper support then they are less likely to need time off.
- They can’t do their work properly – There’s no evidence to support this, it’s a sweeping statement. In my opinion the job is the last thing to suffer, because when you’re experiencing problems with your mental health you cling to the normality of work and routine.
- They can’t cope under pressure – I challenge ANYONE who believes this to spend a day in my shoes, or indeed my head. You want to know what real pressure feels like? Imagine living with a full time monster, one that is constantly trying to derail you AND still holding down a job and normal life. Pressure you say?
- They’re a danger to others – People with mental health issues are more likely to hurt themselves rather than anyone else. This stereotype of a violent and emotional lunatic is beyond archaic
- They don’t do well in an office environment – Potentially, but why is the used as an excuse to penalise? If a person is good at their job then surely they should be supported? Allowing them to work from home one day a week could make all the difference.
It’s something that I can’t think about for too long, the frustration eats away at me. I can’t offer a solution, but I can suggest some useful websites:
- Time to Change is full of information about the Equality Act: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/support-workplace/where-do-i-stand-legally
- Mind have a legal team who can advise on queries relating to work discrimination: http://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/legal-casework/
It’s also worth mentioning that Natasha Devon (former Mental Health Champion for the government) and The Self-Esteem Team have recently launched ‘Letters to Tess.’ a relentless campaign which will see them write to the Prime Minister every single day for a year, or until she responds in a meaningful way. More info here
If anybody can get results, it’s those girls!
I believe that’s the end of my soap box rant… for today.