Mental health stigma preventing service leavers securing work, research finds

Mental health stigma preventing service leavers securing work, research finds

British ex-service personnel struggle to find work due to mental health stigma, according to new research from SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

According to the research, almost half (46%) of UK recruiters worry about hiring a service leaver in case they had mental health issues.

Despite best efforts from British companies and individuals – including Prince William and Prince Harry – negative perceptions about mental health remain a significant barrier in the recruitment process, with service leavers being stigmatised. Over a third (31%) of recruiters feel reluctant to hire someone who had previously served.

To combat this, SSAFA is calling for more UK companies to challenge their perceptions about hiring service leavers, as their new research reveals concerning misconceptions over the benefits of hiring ex-servicemen or women.

To challenge a lack of understanding amongst businesses and to help service men and women transition from military into civilian life, SSAFA has launched a new campaign called ‘Friendly to Forces’.

This initiative will encourage companies from all over the UK sign up and show their support and willingness to hire Forces leavers. Mentees from SSAFA’s own mentoring programme will be directed to apply for roles at SSAFA’s Friendly to Forces employers.

Despite the countless skills that come with hiring a veteran, alarmingly under half (48%) of UK workers said they would feel comfortable working alongside a service leaver.

More male workers (50%) said they would feel comfortable working alongside a service leader than female workers (45%).  Over 1 in 10 (13%) workers aged 16-24 associate aggression with service leaders.

Over 3 in 10 (31%) of UK recruiters said they would feel reluctant to hire someone who has previously served in the Armed Forces. Interestingly more male recruiters (35%) would feel reluctant to hire a Forces leaver than their female counterparts (28%).

The research conducted for SSAFA also revealed that mental health is still not being adequately understood by employers – with nearly half of UK recruiters surveyed (46%) saying they would worry about hiring a service leaver in case they have mental health problems.

The divide in understanding veterans in the workplace is profound. As on the other side of opinion, 43% say they would feel proud to work alongside a service leaver.  In fact, workers cited being a team player (57%), driven (43%), a problem solver (42%), resilient (41%), quick thinking (40%) as qualities they associate with service leavers.

“A career in service to our country should always be met with pride and gratitude. That’s why we have launched our Friendly to Forces campaign, to challenge all businesses to do better when hiring service leavers,” said James Grant, SSAFA’s Head of Corporate Fundraising and Events.

The campaign will underpin SSAFA’s own pledge to the Armed Forces Covenant to show advocacy on behalf of the Armed Forces community.

The Friendly to Forces campaign will complement the existing work of Defence Relationship Management (DRM) which includes the Employer Recognition Scheme Awards, and also the Career Transition Partnership (CTP).

Business can sign up to support equal recruitment opportunities for the nation’s service leavers here.