In a recent report titled, “Working with Schizophrenia: Pathways to Employment, Recovery and Inclusion”, The Work Foundation (UK) identified barriers (individual, attitudinal and structural) and interventions that could increase the number of workers with schizophrenia working in the UK labour market. The average UK employment rate for persons with schizophrenia is eight per cent, while the national employment rate is 71 per cent. To prepare this report, authors used a mix of literature reviews, case studies with individuals that had lived experience, and interviews with a range of experts (psychiatrists, occupational therapists, employment service providers, employers, and service users.)
By far the most significant barrier identified was stigma, in part stemming from the belief that persons with schizophrenia are incapable of functioning in a competitive environment. Contrary to this belief, authors found that all of the service users in this study held jobs in competitive positions for months and even years.
Employers indicated that disclosure upon hiring would make it easier for them because they could prepare for the employee by identifying reasonable adjustments to work hours and tasks, and ready the environment in other ways to accommodate for needs. None of the service users in this study ever disclosed upon hire due to the fear of not getting the job.
Authors made recommendations for all major stakeholders (employers, government health care professionals, and service users) that could increase the number of persons with schizophrenia in the workforce. They include:
- Government should reaffirm employment as an outcome of recovery in their employment strategies;
- Government should review the work capacity assessment tool to ensure that functional capacity fluctuations are taken into account;
- Health care professionals should ensure employment aspirations are discussed early in the recovery period, and
- Service users should be encouraged to focus on their existing skills rather than the limitations presented by their illness.
“Working with Schizophrenia: Pathways to Employment, Recovery and Inclusion” is available on the The Working Foundation website.