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Help staff recover from eating disorders, charity explains how

18 February 2016

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One third of eating disorder sufferers face discrimination at work, but managers can help support their staff and safely get them working again sooner, a leading charity explains.

Eating disorders currently affect 725,000 men and women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK, and anorexia nervosa kills more people than any other mental illness.

A new survey of 650 people with experience of eating disorders found that 40% said their employers’ impact on their recovery was ‘unhelpful’. Similarly, two thirds were unable to access support at work, and 38% used annual leave to attend appointments for their eating disorder.

Andrew Radford, chief executive of Beat, who carried out the research, said: “Employers can play an important role in supporting recovery. The stigma and misunderstanding experienced by so many in the workplace must be replaced with support and compassion championed by a formal mechanism of support.

“Eating disorders are complex and there is no one single cause why someone develops an eating disorder. A whole range of different factors combine, such as genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological influences.

“Our campaign has been driven not only by calls to our helpline from concerned employers and worried colleagues, but the knowledge that eating disorders represent a cost of £8 billion in terms of lost income to the economy every year,” Radford added.

Although serious, eating disorders are treatable conditions and full recovery is possible. The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends:

·      Managers are aware that a return to work from sickness does not necessarily indicate that an employees’ health and wellbeing has improved. When developing return to work polices, take into account that aggressive return to work procedures can encourage presenteeism to the detriment of the organisation.

·      Recruit managers who have the positive leadership traits associated with improved employee health and wellbeing. These traits include being open and approachable and encouraging new ideas.

·      In terms of health and wellbeing, managers should make communication clear to ensure that employees have realistic expectations of what’s possible, practical and affordable.

For more information from Beat click here.