Nearly a fifth of respondents say they’ve gone into work when feeling mentally unwell – equivalent to 5.8 million British workers

A fifth of respondents (19 per cent) said they’d be more likely to go into work if feeling mentally unwell than they would if feeling physically unwell, with mental health issues not deemed as severe as physical ones by a significant minority, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance.  Just 20 per cent report they would take time off if they were suffering from a stress-related illness.

Many employees are worried about how their boss and colleagues would react to time off for mental health. The research found that 20 per cent of respondents would be embarrassed to say they were off with a mental health problem, while 13 per cent would be worried about their future job prospects if they took time off for this. 12 per cent fear their boss and/or colleagues would no longer take them seriously, and the same proportion say their boss and/or colleagues’ understanding of mental health issues is poorer than of physical ones.

The research also provides insight into how employers can tackle the stigma of taking time off from the workplace for mental health issues.

37 per cent of those polled said flexible working would make them feel more comfortable when taking time off for illness. A third cited a more positive workplace attitude towards health and wellbeing, while a quarter wanted less pressure to be ‘always on’ and working.

22 per cent said workplace support e.g Employee Assistance Programmes and counselling, 18 per cent looked for back to work rehabilitation for longer-term conditions and 17 per cent wished for improved job security.

Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, comments:

“Old stigmas still persist when it comes to mental health in the workplace. People suffering from mental health issues should be focusing on getting better rather than struggling into the office. You would not come into work if you were too physically unwell to do so, would you?

 “Too many employees do come in when unwell as they are worried about how having a mental illness will affect their job prospects or relationship with their colleagues. Employers must do more to show they are serious about supporting employees with mental health and stress-related issues. It is important to communicate not only that it’s okay for them to take time off to get better, but also that there won’t be any negative impact on their career for doing so.

 “Organisations should embrace professional, quality support as many are unaware of what can be done and what support is available from insurers. Our Early Intervention Service, available with our group income protection contracts, provides day one absence reporting and management for mental health and other complex absence cases, and seeks to help employees safely back to work through proactive vocational rehabilitation. Employee Assistance Programmes are an invaluable form of support for staff with mental health concerns, particularly if they are caused or worsened by issues in the workplace such as heavy workloads. These are provided at no additional cost to use alongside group income protection policies. Having these support services in place provides practical support as well as reinforcing the message that organisations using them are serious about staff health and wellbeing.”






Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.