Poor mental health accounted for almost a fifth of all lost working time across the UK this year, according to research.
Wellbeing and performance service GoodShape took data from its proprietary workplace absences database – which includes more than 750,000 employee records – and found that UK workers have taken more than 319 million days off work in 2021 for an illness or injury at an estimated cost to employers of £43 billion and counting.
The UK PLC 2021 Workforce Health Report highlighted that poor mental health was the most common cause of lost working time in nearly every industry, with absences averaging three times as long as those for Covid-19 (Coronavirus) related reasons.
More than half (54%) of those who take two or more mental health-related absences will go on to leave their jobs, according to the research.
Mental health issues were the number one reason for lost working time in all UK employment sectors this year apart from the transport and logistics, consumer and retail, and workplace services sectors. The length of time taken off for each mental health-related absence differs by sector, with employees in government, construction and real estate, and transport and logistics taking, on average, in excess of 21 days off for each instance.
The cost of worker absences on UK businesses has increased from an estimated £33 billion between January and November 2019 to £43 billion between January and November 2021, a 31% increase.
Meanwhile, the amount of time taken off by employees for illness has risen from approximately 250 million days in 2019 to more than 319 million in 2021.
Alun Baker, chief executive of GoodShape, commented that the last year has seen a continued positive shift in workplace culture that has allowed for more open conversations about mental health, and that it is encouraging to see more employers acknowledge that meaningful and targeted wellbeing support is crucial for the ongoing health of their people and business.
“The pandemic has meant that across all industries, more is being expected of people and budgets. The good news though is that the business community is realising that performance is inextricably linked with wellbeing and insight,” he said.