Mental health taboo persists for UK workers

A fifth of UK workers would be more likely to go into work with a mental illness than a physical one and just 20 per cent would take time off for a mental health condition, according to new research.

The research found 18 per cent of respondents have gone into work when feeling mentally unwell, with 19 per cent saying they are more likely to go into work if mentally ill than physically ill.

The research, conducted for Canada Life Group Insurance, found 20 per cent would be embarrassed to tell colleagues they were off for a mental health problem and 13 per cent would worry about their future job prospects. The research found that 12 per cent feared 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 it is of physical ones.

When asked how employers could make people with mental and physical health issues feel more comfortable taking time off, 37 per cent cited flexible working. A third – 34 per cent – of employees say promoting a more positive attitude to health and wellbeing would be beneficial, and a 26 per cent suggested less pressure to be ‘always on’ and working would help. 22 per cent said EAPs would assist recuperation, with 18 per cent backing rehabilitation for longer term conditions.

Canada Life Group Insurance marketing director Paul Avis says: “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. 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.”