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Third of people with an eating disorder face discrimination in their workplace.

Byline: Liz Day Reporter liz.day@walesonline.co.uk

ONE in three people suffering from an eating disorder have faced discrimination in the workplace, according to a report by an eating disorder charity.

Figures from Beat reveal that about 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.

The report about eating disorders in the workplace was commissioned in the run-up to Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which starts today.

A total of 650 people were surveyed and 40% of those said their employers' impact on their recovery was "unhelpful". About 66% said they were unable to access support at work, while more than 80% felt their colleagues and employers were not well informed about eating disorders.

James Downs, 26, from Cardiff, developed anorexia at the age of 15. He said: "When it came to trying to get a job, I approached my applications being honest about my mental health problems and explaining why I had gaps in employment and education.

"I was rarely invited to interview and although I put that down to the tough economic climate, I couldn't help but wonder whether I was being judged on a health condition that wasn't my fault. So I left out my diagnoses and suddenly doors opened."

James, now a student at Cambridge, said he was unable to access the support he needed at work and was even threatened with disciplinary action for not disclosing his condition.

"There were plenty of small actions my employers could have taken to make life easier for me," he said.

"Offering a quiet place to eat, making sure I had time for snacks, being flexible about hours so I could attend appointments, offering someone to talk to about how I was coping."

Florence Woodward, 22, from Cardiff, worked as a customer assistant in a shop while suffering from an eating disorder. She said: "My deputy manager was supportive. She asked how I was regularly and made sure I was coping as much as I could in work.

"She knew I struggled to eat around certain people and colleagues and did her best to make sure I was alone when I was having my break.

"She would check I had food with me and if I didn't, she would make sure I had something to eat or drink if I told her I was feeling faint or had no energy."

According to figures from Beat, eating disorders cost the UK economy PS8 billion every year.

The charity decided to launch its campaign after receiving calls to their helpline from concerned employers and worried colleagues.

Beat chief executive Andrew Radford said: "Employers can play an important role in supporting recovery.

"The stigma and misunderstanding experienced by so many in the workplace must be replaced with support and compassion championed by a formal mechanism of support."

He added: "The responsibility for early identification and treatment of these serious mental illnesses should not lie with the health service alone.

"The whole of society must act if we are to improve the lives of everybody affected by an eating disorder."

| Eating Disorders Awareness Week takes place until February 28. For more information and support visit the Beat website www.b-eat.co.uk

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 22, 2016
Words:547
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