27% of managers are more comfortable discussing employees’ physical than mental health


More than a quarter (27%) of manager respondents are more comfortable discussing employees’ physical health than their mental health, according to research by Axa PPP Healthcare.

Its survey of 1,000 managers also found that 45% of respondents are more comfortable discussing physical than mental health because they feel they do not know enough about mental health.

The research also found:

  • 45% of respondents are wary about discussing mental health out of fear of upsetting or offending employees, and around a third (34%) are worried about saying the wrong thing and getting into trouble.
  • More than half (57%) of respondents are just as comfortable discussing employees’ mental health as they are their physical health.
  • 28% of respondents have been diagnosed or treated with a mental health-related condition, and just 15% of these discussed their condition with their own manager.
  • 42% of those who kept their mental health condition private did so because they were concerned about being judged by colleagues, 32% feared their manager would judge them.
  • A quarter (25%) of those respondents who kept their mental health condition private did so because they thought it would harm their career prospects, and 21% were concerned about discrimination.

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Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at Axa PPP Healthcare, said: “Employers have a duty of care towards their employees’ health and safety, and would therefore be wise to provide managers with suitable training and back-up to ensure they are able to support employees whether their health problem relates to physical health or to mental health.

“There is still a taboo around mental ill health and, as seen by the responses of the managers we polled, some would seem to be more concerned about getting into trouble or upsetting the employee than they are about the employee’s mental wellbeing. This should simply not be the case; managers should be ready, willing and able to hold a sensitive, supportive conversation with any employee they think is showing signs of ill health.”