Mental health discrimination is limiting the opportunities in the workplace for those who have served in the armed forces

Thrive Thoughts

In preparation of this years’ Remembrance Sunday, here at Thrive we’ve been thinking about how best to support employees who are linked with the armed forces.

Generally, we agreed that the best way to support them at this time is simple: check in, and make sure that they are adequately supported this week and next, as they may struggle more as Remembrance Sunday looms.

As part of our research, though, we came across a study from SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, which revealed some shocking statistics.

  • 46% of recruiters would worry about hiring someone who had previously served in the armed forces, in case they had mental health issues
  • 48% of UK workers said they would feel comfortable working with a service leaver
  • 1 in 12 (8%) UK workers associate service leavers as being aggressive while 1 in 16 (6%) said short-tempered

All of these misconceptions seem to continue, despite the fact that former military experience could present numerous helpful skills for a prospective employer.

From our perspective, we were shocked to see that there is a clear link between a perception that veterans might have mental health issues, and therefore a recruiter would worry about hiring them, and potentially avoid hiring them, over a non-veteran.

For one thing, this would be discrimination by perception; a prospective candidate would be perceived as having a disability (a mental health condition would potentially amount to a disability), and therefore be treated unfavourably because of this perception. If a former armed forces member could clearly prove that this perception was the reason that they weren’t offered an interview or a role, they would be able to take that employer to Tribunal for discriminatory recruitment.

This is why it is always so important to have an equal opportunities policy, and to ensure that those recruiting or making decisions do not have any inappropriate misconceptions or presumptions about someone’s ability based off (for example) their appearance, gender, or previous experience.   Sometimes this may be unconscious, but with clear guidance and training you can educate your team to ensure this does not occur.

Thrive HR Tips:

  • Make sure any interviewers don’t make any assumptions on interviewees based on previous military experience;
  • Make sure your equal opportunities policy clearly outlines that equal opportunities also extends to prospective employees;
  • Educate your team to ensure that they follow your equal opportunities policy.


SSAFA is asking that employers sign up to support equal recruitment opportunities for UK service leavers. We are proud to have signed up today.

If you have any concerns about any discrimination in recruitment, or mental health discrimination, please contact us. For employers, we can draft or review equal opportunities’ policies and provide training to staff where necessary.

Written by Alicia Collinson.

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