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The impact of Eating disorders on the workplace

Pat Ashworth
eating disorders

As we head into Eating Disorders Awareness Week, how should employers handling eating disorders in the workplace? Contributor Pat Ashworth, Director – Learning Solutions at AdviserPlus,

Monday 26th February marks the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Approximately 1.25 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the UK and the workplace can amplify these issues, particular during lunch hours or when employees bring in snacks to share with colleagues.

For those who suffer from an eating disorder, these situations can be traumatic and lead to anxiety, so receiving the right support from your employer is essential. Line managers can help to provide this support and so it’s important for them to understand the effect that eating disorders – many of which stem from complex mental illnesses – may have on their staff.

Employees with an eating disorder may have few external symptoms and excel at their job, but a disorder can harm an employee’s ability to socialise with colleagues over lunch, leading them to feel isolated and in the worst cases, to suffer from depression and anxiety.

As with all mental health issues, eating disorders can be a sensitive subject. Line managers need to be properly trained and have the confidence to speak to their employees about their disorder if they feel it’s necessary and appropriate. Often, the fear of saying something wrong means line managers fail to act at all, which can be just as damaging.

However, businesses are beginning to recognise that anybody can be affected by mental ill health, including eating disorders, and are encouraging open conversations to reduce any sense of stigma. An essential part of this is ensuring line managers are trained to provide support for employees who experience all types of mental ill health.

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