Approximately 6.2 million admit to working while suffering from mental ill-health

Approximately one-fifth (19%) of UK employees admit that they have gone into work when feeling mentally unwell, according to research by Canada Life Group Insurance.

Canada Life has estimated that this equates to 6.2 million of the 32.7 million individuals that were employed between May 2019 and July 2019, using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The survey of 1,001 full and part-time employees based in the UK also found that a further one in five (21%) had been more embarrassed to take time off for mental health issues compared to physical health conditions, while 40% stated that it is simply easier to take leave for a physical illness.

Respondents aged between 18 and 39 were more likely to go into work when mentally unwell (24%), compared to 40 to 59-year-olds (20%).

In addition, the research showed that employees were impacted by their colleagues’ absence, with a fifth (21%) agreeing that they feel stressed by the additional workload caused by an absent team member.

However, a quarter (25%) of the UK workforce believe employers are sympathetic to absence regardless of whether it is for physical or mental ill-health, and only 16% stated that their employer and colleagues have less of an understanding of mental health problems than physical ones.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said: “Misconceptions and stigma about mental health in the workplace are hard to uproot. Yet, employees should not feel concerned or embarrassed for taking time off for a mental illness. Forcing themselves to carry on working without support could make things worse and result in an extended leave of absence, which is detrimental for both staff and employees.

“To alleviate workers’ fears, employers should ensure they have the necessary support structures in place and communicate these effectively. Crucially, mental health must be treated with the same degree of understanding as physical health issues.

“Employee assistance programmes [EAPs], a free support service provided with most group income protection policies, offer a range of services to help employees tackle mental health issues and other concerns, and enable a quicker return to work.”