Workers fake illness rather than disclose mental health issues, finds survey

By on

Workers are taking an average of four sick days a year due to mental ill health or stress, but lying about it to their boss for fear of being judged, demoted or sacked, finds a new poll.

Research by Slater and Gordon, issued 29 August, showed over half of employees who took days out for their mental health faked a physical illness to explain their absence.

Of those who did talk to their employers, 14 per cent are told to “man up” and 13 per cent are fired, forced to leave or demoted from their roles.  

Slater and Gordon said the balance between how mental health is treated compared to physical health remains skewed.  

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

“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,” said Lyons.

“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.”

Of the 2,000 surveyed, 65 per cent said the attitude of their firms to mental health was poor and that more support was needed.

Workers taking sick days due to mental ill health fear being judged or sacked, found the survey of 2,000 workers

It is widely reported that mental ill health will affect one in four people at some point in their working lives. People with mental health problems frequently suffer discrimination in the workplace and unemployment affects those with long-term mental health disorders more than any other group of disabled people, according to NHS Employers.

Mental illness should be treated in the same way as any other type of sickness absence, comments Gemma Bailey, who's a partner at Howells solicitors. However, company policy will often require staff to call in to explain why they’re ill, rather than text or email.

"The natural instinct is to volunteer information about why you’re sick, but, 'I’ve been awake all night with a viral stomach bug” is perhaps easier than to try to describe a particularly bad day of anxiety or depression for example,” she told Wales Online.

“In our experience, employees are commonly reluctant to be so forthright with issues around their mental health which is in part because they are worried about future repercussions following disclosure.”

Mental Health Foundation says evidence suggests that 12.7 per cent of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

Watch British Safety Council's breathing exercise video for some tips on managing stress at work:



Grenfell Istock 1170168751 Olivierguiberteau MED

Grenfell Tower campaigners fear repeat unless action is taken

By Belinda Liversedge on 14 June 2021

Non-profit organisation Justice4Grenfell has launched a campaign calling for justice and accountability, four years to the day that 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

production line_0.jpg

Workers’ watchdog welcome, but needs funding says Peer

By Belinda Liversedge on 11 June 2021

Members of the House of Lords clashed at a Parliamentary debate on the government's new workers’ watchdog, which has been set up to protect the rights of UK workers.

Menopause Istock 1044148964 Ridofranz MED

Women made to feel ‘incapable of doing their job’ because of menopause

By Belinda Liversedge on 10 June 2021

An MP has called for workplace menopause policies to be made mandatory, to help women work through what can be the most difficult time of their lives.