UK workers make up physical illness fearing talking about mental health

David Banks's picture
Authored by David Banks
Posted Thursday, August 29, 2019 - 10:31am

WORKERS are taking an average of four ‘mental health days’ a year but lying about it to their boss for fear of being judged, demoted or sacked.

New research shows over half of employees who took mental health days faked a physical illness to explain their absence, despite stress from work souring relationships and sleep patterns for many.

A mental health day is a sick day taken to look after psychological wellbeing, this could including seeing a counsellor or taking time reduce stress and anxiety before it becomes overwhelming.

In the last five years a quarter of people admit leaving at least one job due to pressure and the negative impact it was having on their mental health. One in six are still in a role causing them burnout, stress and anxiety.

The research, commissioned by specialist stress at work lawyers from Slater and Gordon, shows the balance between how mental health is treated compared to physical health remains skewed. 

Peter Lyons, employment liability lawyer, at Slater and Gordon said: “We speak to a lot of people who are feeling so stressed and anxious with work they are forced into taking mental health days.

“Many isolate themselves, trying to work harder, which causes their personal lives to suffer and mental health to deteriorate further. The biggest thing we would say is don’t fight stress alone at work.

“Keep detailed notes of what is causing stress and anxiety, then speak to a trusted colleague or manager to create a plan to tackle the issues. Union representatives or legal advisors specialising in this area can also provide guidance.”

Shockingly 14 per cent of those who are honest with their boss are told to “man up” and 13 per cent are fired, forced to leave or demoted from their roles. 

Many recognised their mental health wasn’t as good as it should be, nor was their workplace’s attitude towards it, with 65 per cent calling for more support to be provided.

Poor mental health formed at work was following people home with two in five admitting stress from their jobs has a negative impact on their mental health.

Over a third of people (37 per cent) struggled to switch off at night or over the weekend and 60 per cent suffered with ‘Sunday dread’.

The most common contributors to this are pressure from above (53 per cent) and unrealistic deadlines (42 per cent).

The average person also spent an additional 27 unpaid minutes each day working, adding up to two and a half extra weeks of work a year.

The combination of these factors led to 40 per cent auguring with their partners, 40 per cent missing personal events and 33 per cent arguing with family members.

Peter Lyons, employment liability lawyer at Slater and Gordon said: “If staff do not even feel supported enough to seek help without fear of prejudice that’s a huge concern.

“Staff feeling unsupported and unable to deal with work related mental health issues should seek advice.

“But the law in regarding stress at work claims isn’t straightforward. Speak to your trade union about the assistance they can provide. If you are not  a trade union member contact a solicitor experienced in dealing with stress at work claims.”

The research polled 2,000 people of working age from around the UK.

Five top tips on managing stress:

  • Take the breaks you are entitled to each day and all the holidays you are allowed
  • Communicate with colleagues what is causing stress, ask for help when needed
  • When problems arise, speak to your trade union representative or manager
  • Before discussing anything with your manager write down and document issues
  • Keep active outside of work, exercise, see friends and family.

Peter Lyons talks more about mental health in the workplace in this video.

UK WORKERS MAKE UP PHYSICAL ILLNESS FEARING TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH