Employers' guide to schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, which means the individual can’t tell their own intense thoughts, ideas, perceptions and imaginings from reality. It can be a chronic and debilitating illness that affects how an employee thinks, feels and behaves. However, it can also often be very successfully managed and there are many people with schizophrenia working very well in a whole range of jobs in the UK. Schizophrenia is not a split personality.
Impact of schizophrenia
The majority of people that are affected by schizophrenia will have long periods of good functioning with occasional difficulties. Although schizophrenia affects people in different ways, there are recognised signs and symptoms that people may experience. For example the employee may experience hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting something that does not exist, as if it were real). The employee may hold false and often unusual beliefs with unshakable conviction.
Recruiting people with schizophrenia
- If an individual displays significant stress, anxiety or distraction at interview, consider breaks or any environment changes that could be made (eg. seating positions, reduced panel sizes).
- Consider allowing someone to accompany the applicant to the interview, such as
- a trusted friend, advocate or specialist employment provider representative.
Supporting staff with schizophrenia
- Discuss with the employee, how their schizophrenia affects them, identify any signs or triggers and agree actions to be taken if those signs become apparent in the workplace.
- Flexible working to allow an employee to manage periods of illness or hospital appointments.
- Find out about the side effects of medication and agree any actions which may be required.
- With the individual’s approval, educate work colleagues on the condition and how it affects the employee in work.
- Consider a workplace buddy or mentor to provide personal support.
- Encourage the employee to take medication.
- In the most extreme of cases, ensure that an emergency procedure is in place.
Useful information about schizophrenia
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.