Half of UK adults would lie to their employer if they had to take time off for their mental health.
This is according to research from Benenden Health, which has produced a report on the impact poor mental health has on workers and is encouraging employers to open up conversations about mental wellbeing.
In 2020, the year that the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, 35% of UK employees took time off for mental health reasons, its survey of 1,008 non-furloughed staff and 1,003 business owners and directors found.
However, many sought to cover up the true reason for their absence. Twenty-nine per cent told their employer they had a physical health problem instead, while 24% have taken annual leave in order to avoid any awkward conversations.
Men were more likely to take time off for their mental health than women (37% compared with 32%), as were 18- to 24-year-olds (48% compared with 27% of those aged 55 and above).
Benenden Health CEO Bob Andrews said organisations needed to prove to employees that they genuinely cared about their wellbeing by fostering a culture of openness and offering internal and external support services.
“There continues to be a stigma around discussing our mental wellbeing and this is often more prevalent in the workplace than anywhere else,” he said.
“Unfortunately, businesses are too often unable to identify wellbeing issues, employees still feel like they can’t discuss them and there remains a lack of tangible support, all of which contribute to lost time and productivity for businesses as well as unaddressed poor employee wellbeing.”
Benenden Health’s report, The elephant that never left the room, estimated that mental health absences cost businesses around 40 million individual days of work, with workers absent for between two to five days on average.