Empowermental McNair research results in 2014: ‘SME readiness to employ people with a mental illness’

WISE Employment commissioned McNair Ingenuity Research to conduct a research project called ‘Small and Medium Enterprise Readiness to Employ People with a Mental Illness’.

They surveyed 256 small and medium-sized enterprises and found:

  • Two in five employers would not consider employing someone who has a mental illness citing unpredictable and changeable behaviour (57%), the possibility of a breakdown (54%) and too many sick days (43%) as the biggest barriers.
  • Employers prioritised hiring job seekers without any TAFE or tertiary experience (66%), who are learning English as a second language (43%) or who have a physical disability (50%) over hiring someone who has a mental illness (29%), even if they were qualified for the job.
  • 50% of employers would prefer to hire someone who has a physical disability. Employers felt it was possible to “work around physical disability” and that it was not seen to affect motivation or personality, unlike mental illness.
  • Of the organisations that had a positive experience in employing people with a mental illness, 78% said they fitted in well with the team (up from 57% in 2013), 67% were hardworking and 53% was good for the company.
  • 68% of employers who have employed a person who has a mental illness still do.
  • 34% of all managers have a friend or someone close to them with a mental illness and 26% have a member of their family who has a mental illness.
  • 26% of employers would consider hiring a person who has a known mental illness.
  • 42% of SMEs had never been approached by anyone asking them to consider employing a person with a mental illness.
  • 22% had a lack of awareness of the support and resources available to them if they chose to employ a person with a mental illness.

Employing a person who has a mental illness can benefit both the job seeker and employer. With appropriate treatment and support, people who have a mental illness can be loyal and productive staff members, offer much-needed skills and valuable contributions in the workplace.


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