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Employers' guide to depression

Depression is a common condition. Between eight and 12 per cent of people will experience it in any one year. It is characterised by a low mood and other symptoms, such as anxiety, which last for at least two weeks.

Some people may become depressed just once and recover quickly, for others it can last much longer, recur and require treatment. Many people try to ‘get on with it’ and it is only when their condition worsens that they are treated. However, most people with depression that is managed can work effectively.

How does depression affect people?

Depression will affect everyone differently but there are some common traits, which include:
  • feeling useless, worthless and miserable
  • expecting the worst
  • poor motivation and lack of interest in work and life
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • tiredness
  • hypersensitivity to comments
  • change in appetite and weight
  • the need for reassurance
  • in the most extreme cases thought of self harm or suicide.

Recruiting people who are depressed?

  • If the individual has declared their condition be prepared to discuss what support their need during the recruitment process.
  • Understand that the condition fluctuates.
  • Consider working with a specialist advisor who can help you both through the process.

Supporting staff who are depressed?

As depression is quite common it is likely that at some point one of your employees will be depressed. You can support them by:
  • offering flexible working so that they can work from home, or come in to work later, or finish work earlier
  • allow time off for other services, such as counselling
  • set clear and achievable goals
  • talk to them about the effects of medication and take action if necessary to avoid workplace risk
  • consider a phased return to work if the employee has been off sick
  • have regular meetings to see how they are coping. 

Useful information about depression

You might need to make some adjustments to help your employees. These could include specialist equipment like chairs and IT equipment. Grants are available through Access to Work (external site) to help to cover the cost of items that are identified as necessary to support employees who are disabled or have a health condition.