The Mental Health Foundation Scotland, which has been accredited as a Living Wage employer, has warned of the link between low pay, job insecurity and mental health problems.The Foundation’s research, “Poverty and Mental Health” calls on employers to take action to help people with mental health problems stay in work, particularly during periods of ill health.

The report argues that unemployment, ‘bad’ employment and in-work poverty are both harmful to physical health and associated with poorer mental health and psychological distress.

Key statistics

  • One in four adults will develop a mental health problem in any year.
  • Across the UK, those in the poorest fifth of the population are twice as likely to be at risk of mental ill health.
  • Young people aged 10 to 15 with low socio-economic status had a 2.5 higher prevalence of anxiety or depression than peers with high socio-economic status.
  • Mental health problems cost Scottish employers over £2bn each year.

Lee Knifton, Head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland 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-hour 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.

“We’re delighted to have been accredited as a Living Wage employer. We’ve been paying the Living Wage for several years, however we believed it was important to go through the accreditation process and encourage other organisations to do the same.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown MSP 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. I congratulate the Mental Health Foundation in becoming accredited Living Wage employers.

“We will continue to encourage more businesses to recognise the benefits of paying the Real Living Wage as we move towards meeting our target of reaching 1,000 Living Wage accredited employers by autumn this year.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said:

“The real Living Wage is one of the key tools at our disposal to help make an impact on levels of in-work poverty in Scotland. There is a strong business case for paying the Living Wage; but crucially it allows those in work to become more included in society, better provide for their families, and feel that their value and hard work is recognised by their employer.

We are delighted to congratulate the Mental Health Foundation on becoming a Living Wage employer, joining the growing movement of almost 900 companies in Scotland who want to go further than the government minimum and recognise that Living Wage accreditation is the mark of a responsible employer. I hope more organisations follow their lead by becoming accredited”.

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