Workers are most likely to be worried about being seen as less capable employees and embarrassed about talking to their employer about mental health issues
There is no legal difference in the UK between taking a mental health sick day and a day off for a physical health problem, but there appears to be a difference in perception: Britons think society considers physical health problems to be more important than mental health problems.
New YouGov research shows that most of those Britons who have taken time off work for their mental health worry about stigma – and those with long-term mental health conditions are more concerned about how taking time off appears to their employer.
One in five workers have taken time off for their mental health
Overall, one in five British workers (19%) say they have taken time off work because of their mental health, with 74% saying they have not.
Unsurprisingly, those Britons with a long-term mental health condition are much more likely than those without to say they have missed work due to mental health problems, by 56% to 13%.
Workers in their 30s, 40s and 50s are slightly more likely to have taken time off work for mental health reasons than those under 30 and over 60. Between 21% and 23% of those aged between 30 and 59 have taken time off work for mental health, compared to 15% of both the under 30s and those aged 60 and over. Women are more likely than men to have taken time off for mental health reasons, by 23% to 15%.
The majority of Britons who have taken time off work for mental health reasons have not told their boss the real reason why they took time off
Talking to your employer about needing time off for mental health can be difficult. YouGov polling shows that approaching two-thirds of those workers who have taken time off for mental health reasons (63%) have not always been honest about their reason for needing a day off work, including 15% who say they concealed the reason every time they have needed a mental health day. Just 35% of workers who have needed to take time off for mental health reasons have never actively concealed the reason for doing so.
Workers with a long-term mental health condition are more likely than those without to not tell their employers the real reason why they are taking time off work. Seven in 10 workers with a mental health condition (72%) have ever concealed the real reason for needing a day off, compared to 57% of those without a long-term mental health condition.
Workers who have concealed the reasons why they took time off for their mental health are worried that they would be seen as less capable employees
For those workers who have taken time off work for mental health reasons and not told their employers the real reason why, half say they were worried they would be seen as a less capable employee if they took a day off for their mental health (52%).
Four in 10 (42%) say they were worried or embarrassed about talking about mental health issues with their employer, and the same number say they would prefer their employer not to know about their mental health issues.
A third (32%) say they didn’t feel like explaining to their employer why they were taking a day off, and a quarter (24%) say they thought their employer would make them come in to work if they were not physically sick.
Those with a long-term mental health condition tend to be more concerned about the stigma surrounding taking days off for mental health, and to not want their employer to know about their mental health problems. More than half (56%) of those with such a condition say they were worried about being seen as less capable if they took a day off for their mental health, compared to 48% of those without. Four in 10 (38%) say they did not want their employer to know about their underlying mental health condition.
See full results here