Perinatal Mental Health and Employment: Exploring the Work-Illness Intersection in the Context of UK Policing

Wilkinson, Krystal; Lennie, Sarah-Jane and Duddin, Keely (2024). Perinatal Mental Health and Employment: Exploring the Work-Illness Intersection in the Context of UK Policing. In: Wilkinson, Krystal and Woolnough, Helen eds. Work-Life Inclusion: Broadening Perspectives Across the Life-Course. Leeds: Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 95–108.



Work-life challenges experienced by employees navigating pregnancy, maternity, and parenting young children are well documented in the literature. Correspondingly, work-life balance policies and provisions aimed at supporting affected staff are well established in many modern organizations. Within this agenda however, complications within maternity journeys, and specifically the intersection with mental health has been neglected. In this chapter, we consider the work-life issues associated with perinatal (pregnancy and post-birth) mental illness. After introducing perinatal mental illness, and its impact on individuals and families, we consider the two-way relationship between illness and work: how employment factors influence the development of perinatal mental illness and recovery trajectories, with implications for family life; and how such illnesses impact work and employment. We offer key insights from our empirical research on this topic in the context of UK policing, highlighting challenges linked to the nature of police work and organization culture, and issues that are more broadly applicable to how maternity and mental illness are treated in the workplace. The chapter offers recommendations for people management practice aimed at reducing or mitigating occupational factors that exacerbate illness and maximizing those facilitating recovery in the perinatal period and beyond, thus advancing work-life inclusion.

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