United Kingdom

UK workers ‘unsure’ if mental health warrants sick leave

August 2018

A significant number of British workers are unsure if they can take sick leave for mental health reasons according to research by conference call facilitator, Powwownow.

43 per cent of those asked did not know if they were allowed to take sick leave to help manage mental health issues while just 35 per cent of respondents said that their organisation allows them to take sick days for mental health reasons.

Employee Benefits Magazine reported that the firm, which surveyed 1,500 office-based British employees, also found that 46 per cent of people believe that being recognised for their work “would increase their overall wellbeing in the workplace”.

In addition:

  • 29 per cent of respondents believed they would be more productive if they could take sick leave if they were struggling with poor mental health
  • 62 per cent admitted their workplace environment was ‘negatively contributing’ to mental health
  • 56 per cent said they ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ felt anxious about going into work.

Only 15 per cent said they found it easy to discuss mental health issues with their manager and 38 per cent of staff felt that team bonding exercises would improve wellbeing in the workplace.

Aon’s head of health management, Charles Alberts explained that stress and mental health issues are the second biggest reason for short term absence, after colds, flu, headaches and migraines, and it is the main cause for long term absence.

He added: “We should not forget that many people don’t report mental health as the true reason for their absence for fear of stigma and discrimination. It can therefore be assumed that the true scale of mental health isn’t yet known and could be much greater than we realise”.

He said: “We have to ensure our employees feel confident to ask for help and support whenever they may need it. Whether that’s encouraging flexible working or ensuring they are able to take sick days for mental health reasons if they choose, it’s about increasing the opportunities that are available to staff and fostering a positive environment.”

Alberts recommended employers implement and communicate mental health policies as a standard feature and suggested employers familiarise themselves with the Thriving at Work report and the Time to Change Employer Pledge. He added: “Having it in black and white helps to remove any uncertainty and provides all parties with an invaluable guide.”

He concluded: “As we spend such a large proportion of our waking hours at work, the workplace presents a great opportunity to improve employee wellbeing - yet sadly it can also have a negative impact on us as indicated by the results of the Powwownow survey.

Most wellbeing programmes tend to focus on what employees can do to improve their wellbeing, but this is a stark reminder that the workplace itself should not be ignored.”


Aon UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 00210725. Registered Office: The Aon Centre, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4AN.