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Paul Farmer
Chief Executive of Mind and guest blogger for The Work Foundation
Paul Farmer

Red Tape or Vital Protection?

Authors: Paul Farmer Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind

30 May 2012

No-one likes Red Tape. The very thought of being wrapped up in it induces a sense of frustration at the ‘bureaucrats’ who force this nonsense upon us. It is seen by many as stifling innovation and holding back businesses who need to grow to create economic growth for the country. So it makes sense for the government to look at this and try to reduce unnecessary red tape.

But what’s unnecessary?

It’s really important that disabled people and people with mental health problems have a chance to seek and keep work. In recent times, legal changes have given disabled people a more equal chance in this. And that’s important when the unemployment rates of disabled people are so terrifyingly high.

In trying to cut through the administrative burden on businesses it is vital that important regulations that protect the employment rights of people with mental health problems are not lost.

We have only just seen an end to the use of unfair pre-employment questionnaires that allowed employers to ask questions about someone’s health and disability and screen out candidates that had a history of mental health problems. We must not return to this discriminatory practice and we urge the government to publicly commit to retaining the ban on pre-employment questionnaires.

Much of what has been portrayed as red tape is actually legal protection for individuals against unfair behaviour by employers. If employers act in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, complying with such regulation shouldn’t really be a burden.

Mind’s Taking Care of Business campaign (with support from ‘The Elephant in the Room’ on Facebook and Twitter) has found consistently that many businesses do want to employ people with mental health problems, but may be nervous about doing so. In these circumstances, clear rules and guidance can be helpful, so that everyone can have a fair chance.

Workplaces that are proactively thinking about mental health are not only less likely to see legal protections in this area as a chore, but will also find that creating a mentally healthy workplace will benefit all of their staff and lead to a happy and more productive workforce.

As the government continues to think about how it makes life easier for the UK’s businesses, it is vital that it does not give a bad name to the shift in attitudes towards disability, mental health and discrimination which have improved the lives, and unlocked the potential, of thousands of people.

Paul Farmer is Chief Executive of Mind