Mental Health and Irish Employment LawPeople with mental health problems in Ireland experience persistent labour market disadvantage, according to Mark Bell, Regius Professor of Laws at Trinity, speaking at his inaugural lecture this week.

28 January 2016

People with mental health problems in Ireland experience persistent labour market disadvantage according to an equality and employment legal expert who delivered a lecture on how Irish laws can better support people with mental health problems to remain in employment in Trinity College Dublin week.

Although current rights confer important protections on individuals and can stimulate wider changes in workplace practices, evidence of persistent labour market disadvantage experienced by people with mental health problems clearly indicate that the existing legal framework needs to be enhanced, explains Professor Mark Bell, Regius Professor of Laws at Trinity, who gave his inaugural lecture entitled Mental Health and Employment in Ireland: Is Equality Law the Solution? in the Edmund Burke Theatre on Tuesday, January 26, 2016.

Mark Bell, Regius Professor of Laws

“One quarter of us will develop mental or behavioural disorders during our lifetime and for many this can lead to job loss. Promoting the inclusion of people with mental health problems in the labour market is a complex social challenge that demands responses across multiple areas of policy. Irish equality law already provides valuable legal protections for individuals and can stimulate wider changes in workplace practices.”

“However, there is strong evidence of persistent labour market disadvantage experienced by people with mental health problems. Research suggests that the odds of those with emotional or psychological disabilities being outside the labour market are nine times higher than those without disabilities. Recent court cases also reveal that sometimes employers do not comply with their duties, and that some individuals can find it difficult to seek help.”

“Workers can face other barriers in asserting their rights, such as having the emotional and financial resources to pursue a claim. Stigma also continues to deter individuals from speaking about mental health problems in the workplace. We know that almost 6 out of 10 people believe that openness about mental health impacts negatively on job and career prospects.”

“For public sector workers Section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, which introduces a duty on public bodies to protect the human rights of staff and service-users, is still in the process of being implemented. This holds the potential to complement the individual rights already guaranteed.”

“In the private sector, however, Ireland has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which includes a duty on the state to promote disabled people’s inclusion in private sector employment. This is an increasingly isolated global position as 160 states have now ratified the Convention and Ireland is one of just three EU Member States yet to do so. The state should now subject itself to international accountability in relation to the steps being taken to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities.”

Listen back to a full podcast of the event here.

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