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67% of employees feel uncomfortable telling colleagues about taking a sick day for mental health reasons, Badenoch and Clark reveals

67% of workers do not feel comfortable telling colleagues about taking a sick day for mental health reasons, according to research by Badenoch & Clark, part of The Adecco Group UK and Ireland.

The ‘Breaking boundaries: Mental health and the failings of the UK workplace’ report, launched today, reveals that this number rises to 72% in the private sector.

These findings are unsurprising, considering that 29% of workers think their employer would frown upon mental health issues as a valid reason to be off work.

What’s more, when asked about the top reasons for thinking twice before taking a sick day to focus on their mental health, over half (59%) said that they are worried that people will view them negatively and 40% do not want to deal with people’s prejudice.

Guy Emmerson, senior vice president of Badenoch & Clark, said, “Despite there being no legal difference between taking a day off work for mental health reasons compared to physical illness, this clearly doesn't translate into practice. The majority of employees still don't feel able to call in sick to focus on their mental health without worrying that it will negatively affect their career. If companies want to engage their employees and drive business growth, they will actively need to instill positive attitudes and policies towards mental health issues in the workplace. One key element of this is clearly communicating that mental health is a valid reason to take a sick day. Ensuring employees feel supported and know that you care about them as an individual will pay back dividends in terms of employee productivity and retention.”

The finding that 18% of employees have already left a job because of a lack of understanding towards mental health at work, echoes last month’s research by the government which found that up to 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems leave their jobs each year. Worryingly, the ‘Breaking Boundaries’ report also found that 11% are considering leaving their employment right now and a further 15% have considered it, and would quit were it not for their mental health condition. A significant majority of employees (89%) more likely to accept a job at a company or recommend their employers to friends and family if they did more to promote a positive attitude towards mental health. So now more than ever there’s a clear incentive for businesses to improve practices around mental health. 

Emmerson added, “As the war for talent wages on in the UK, businesses cannot afford to rest on their laurels with their approach to mental health in the workplace. Not only because a lack of understanding around mental health can drive employees to quit or contemplate leaving their jobs, but more importantly because a positive attitude towards it can be a real competitive differentiator for employers when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.”

Interestingly, the research also found that more men (52%) than women (44%) feel discriminated against because of mental health issues, revealing a long-standing stigma when it comes to men discussing their emotions in the workplace. Almost half (48%) of men have either already left a job, are considering leaving a job or have considered leaving their job, but can’t because of their condition, because of lack of understanding around attitudes towards mental health, compared to 41% of women. 

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