Misconceptions about mental health prevent service leavers getting a civvy job

  • SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity reveals that mental health stigma still a deterrent to hiring service leavers in the UK workforce
  • Nearly a half (46%) of recruiters* would worry about hiring a service leaver in case they had mental health issues
  • Over a third (31%) of recruiters would feel reluctant to hire someone who had previously served in the Armed Forces
  • Under half (48%) of UK workers said they would feel comfortable working with a service leaver
  • 1 in 12 (8%) UK workers associate service leavers with being aggressive while 1 in 16 (6%) said short-tempered
  • SSAFA launches Friendly to Forces Campaign to encourage UK work forces to hire ex-servicemen and women

Research by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has revealed that British ex-service personnel struggle to find work due to mental health stigma. Almost a 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 leavers.

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.

Amanda Fisher, Managing Director Facilities Management Defence and Justice at Amey says:

“We’ve been recruiting Forces leavers for over 15 years and will always continue to value the dedication and enthusiasm that comes with this background. They bring many qualities to our business including a ‘can do’ attitude and transferable skills that make for a successful team dynamic”.

James Grant, Head of Corporate Fundraising and Events, says:

“One of the many selling points of joining the Armed Forces is learning skills that can be easily transferred into civilian life.  Sadly, some businesses still don’t recognise these skills and service leavers are being discriminated against. We see that there’s also a false perception over Armed Forces personnel suffering from mental health issues. Mental health is a common condition affecting 1 in 4 people every year* – service leaver or not.”

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.”

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).

Sign your business up to support equal recruitment opportunities for

UK’s service leavers at ssafa.org.uk/friendly

Notes to editors

(1)          Survey carried out by Censuswide in September 2019.

  1. Censuswide surveyed 2,197 UK workers
  2. Censuswide surveyed 250 UK respondents involved in the hiring process

*Recruiters or hirers refers to respondents in the hiring process

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. Last year our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 82,000 people in need, from Second World War veterans to young men and women who have served in more recent conflicts, and their families. SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person. And we are here for that person – any time they need us, in any way they need us, for as long as they need us.

For any further press enquiries, interviews or images please contact:

The Forge Communications – 01483 821 079

Emma-Jo Jones – emmajo@theforgecommunications.com

Rachel Bowden – rachel@theforgecommunications.com

Emily Godwin – emily@theforgecommunications.com

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