New research has shown that almost half of UK employees would not consider talking to their employer if they were experiencing a health issue.

This finding, from non-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health, has the potential to have a massive impact on workplace performance and culture.

When surveyed, 43 per cent of individuals reported that they would not feel confident discussing health issues with their employer.

The top reason cited for this was worrying about what it would mean for their career and relationships within the workplace, as many employees fear that sickness will be held against them in the workplace in relation to promotion and performance.

The research also found that nearly a third (28 per cent) of businesses accepted that they would have concerns about offering support to those in need, even long-standing employees.

In fact, almost a fifth (19 per cent) admitted that whilst they have previously hired someone with pre-existing health conditions, they would not do so again.

This suggests that open conversations and support for employees are not currently working, and many workplaces are perpetuating a cycle of hidden health issues.

The survey found that more than half of UK employees (51 percent) have a long-term health issue or disability, yet the stigma around discussing health in the workplace means that many employees are suffering, without accessing any form of support from their employer.

As such, many workplaces run the risk of leaving employees apathetic and disaffected, leading to absences, lower productivity, and employees leaving companies to search for better support and benefits.

Respondents stated that the top issue they fail to disclose to employers is poor mental health, with more than a third (36 per cent) of employees admitting they have lied to their boss about taking time off for an appointment, increasing to 44 per cent for 16–24-year-olds.

This is in spite of the fact that counselling was recently shown to be the UK’s most popular workplace benefit, offered by nearly nine in ten (89 per cent) businesses.

Discussions of wellbeing at work appear to be lacking, with nearly a third (29 per cent) reporting that they choose not to discuss health issues for fear of colleagues thinking they couldn’t do their job.

Worryingly, more than a quarter (27 per cent) stated they would fear they could lose their job, with 15 per cent reporting that they feel they have been overlooked in the past for a promotion or a job due to a health issue.

Naomi Thompson, Head of OD and Beneden Health, commented:

It is disappointing that so many people still feel they can’t speak to their employers about their wellbeing and that a sizeable number of decision makers reinforce this with dated approaches to hiring people with long-term health issues.

This stigma is especially prevalent in the workplace, with businesses too often unable to identify wellbeing issues, employees concerned about the implications of discussing them and a continuing lack of tangible support, all of which contribute to lost time and productivity for businesses as well as unaddressed poor employee wellbeing.





Megan McElroy is a second year English Literature student at the University of Warwick. As Editorial Intern for HRreview, her interests include employment law and public policy. In relation to her degree, her favourite areas of study include Small Press Publishing and political poetry.