Lovewell’s logic: Tackling the mental health pay gap

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck

Inequality and prejudice of any kind are one of my top pet peeves. In this day and age, it never fails to astound me that, despite the progress made in many areas, dealing with such issues is still a daily battle for many individuals.

However, every now and then, a finding comes along that truly astounds me.

Earlier this month, figures from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that people suffering from mental health conditions, such as depression and panic attacks, earn up to 42% less than their peers.

The research, which is due to be published in full next month, revealed that men suffering from psychological conditions such as panic attacks or phobias earn 58p for every pound that a male peer who does not suffer from such conditions earns.

Meanwhile, men with anxiety or depression earn 74p for every pound earned by a contemporary without such conditions.

Perhaps surprisingly given the gender pay gap that frequently exists in the UK, this trend is not quite as noticeable among female employees. Women suffering from anxiety or depression, for example, earn 90p for every pound earned by peers who do not suffer from these conditions.

While the stigma around mental health issues is nothing new and indeed is something that is frequently the subject of debate, particularly in terms of how to overcome this, I wonder how many realised how far this stigma extended, to the point it touches on individuals’ pay packets?

Just a day after the EHRC’s figures were released, research by Axa PPP Healthcare found that just over half (51%) of employer respondents believe that mental health conditions will be the biggest threat to their employees’ health over the next five years. This placed mental health conditions ahead of other health issues such as obesity or a high body mass index, and high blood pressure. Failing to address issues such as the current mental health pay gap now, therefore, could potentially result in much greater discrepancies further down the line.

So, just as employers will soon have to report on gender pay gaps in their organisation, should they also be tasked with reporting on, and tackling, other pay inequalities?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
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