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Eating Disorders at Work

  February 26, 2016   

This week has been Eating Disorders Awareness Week, an international event aiming to fight the myths and misunderstandings that surround eating disorders.

Eating Disorders and the workplace

The focus for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016 is stigma in the workplace. The UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders - Beat - carried out a workplace survey in 2015 and the numbers are cause for concern.

Serious mental illness

Beat describes eating disorders as a serious mental illness that can affect people regardless of gender, age or background. 725,000 are affected by eating disorders in the UK, which is equivalent to the population of the Metropolitan Borough of Leeds. Eating disorders cost the economy £8 billion in lost income each year, and the annual financial direct costs total to £16.8 billion.

More than 30% feel stigmatised

According to Beat’s Eating Disorders at Work Survey 2015, more than 30% of people felt they were stigmatised or discriminated against because of their eating disorder at work. Nearly 2 in 5 described their employers’ impact on their recovery as unhelpful, and two thirds were unable to access a formal or informal mechanism of support for their eating disorder at work.

What can employers do?

Respondents to Beat’s Eating Disorders at Work Survey suggested several actions employers can take to support and help employees suffering from an eating disorder.

  • 46% of respondents would like their workplace to provide mental health first aid
  • 43% would find workplace counselling helpful to their recovery
  • 69% want a policy concerning mental health and eating disorders
  • 60% suggest awareness training for managers
  • 58% would find time off for medical appointments helpful to their recovery

If you are experiencing stigma in the workplace due to an eating disorder, Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion have produced a best practice guide for employers in association with Beat. This guide gives a thorough understanding of eating disorders from an employment perspective.

For more information visit the Beat website at