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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Charity warns of link between low pay, job insecurity and greater risk of suicide

Written by The Press Association

The lowest-paid workers are at a greater risk of suicide, a mental health charity has claimed.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation Scotland warns of the link between low pay, job insecurity and mental health problems.

The foundation's Poverty and Mental Health report claims unemployment, "bad" employment and in-work poverty are harmful to physical health and associated with poorer mental health and higher death rates.

The charity is calling on employers to support workers with mental health problems to retain their jobs, particularly during bouts of ill health.

Mental health problems cost Scottish employers more than £2 billion each year, the foundation said, but across the UK sickness absence counts for just under a third of the cost, with the main financial impact stemming from presenteeism - when staff are at work but are underperforming.

Employers should offer "reasonable adjustments" for worker with mental health problems, the charity said.

Foundation head Lee Knifton said: "The vast majority of people with mental health conditions are in employment.

"But it's rewarding and suitable work, rather than just any job, that fosters good mental health - work that provides a living wage, security and integrated health and work support.

"Research shows that the lowest-paid workers, who typically don't have much job security or control over their work patterns, are at greater risk of suicide.

"Zero-hours contracts, for example, have created exploitative environments that keep people in low-paid work because they're desperate to keep a roof over their head.

"If we want to help more people out of poverty we need a major cultural shift in our workplaces.

"We need employers who show the same concern for mental ill health as they do for physical ill health.

"Understanding the fluctuating nature of mental health problems and offering reasonable adjustments to work patterns can help people stay in work and out of poverty."

The foundation received living-wage accreditation on Wednesday, having paid the rate for several years.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown congratulated the organisation on becoming accredited.

He said: "The impact of poverty as the biggest driver of poor mental health is well documented.

"The living wage aims to address the issue of in-work poverty and has been shown to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of staff whilst boosting productivity."

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