Staff are faking physical illness to take mental health days off work

People are taking an average of 4 mental health days a year off work — but are lying to their bosses about the reason for the absence for fear of being judged, sacked or demoted.

New research, carried out by law firm Slater and Gordon, found that over half of employees who took such absences faked a physical illness to explain time off work, despite stress from work contributing to the need for a day off to recuperate. 

In addition to this, at least a quarter of people admitted to leaving at least one job due to the negative impact it was having on their mental health in the last 5 years. 

14 per cent of staff who were honest with their bosses about needing a mental health day were told to “man up” and 13 per cent were fired, forced to leave or demoted from their roles. 

Peter Lyons, employment liability lawyer, at Slater and Gordon said: “We speak to a lot of people who are feeling so stressed and anxious with work they are forced into taking mental health days.

“Many isolate themselves, trying to work harder, which causes their personal lives to suffer and mental health to deteriorate further. The biggest thing we would say is don’t fight stress alone at work.

“Keep detailed notes of what is causing stress and anxiety, then speak to a trusted colleague or manager to create a plan to tackle the issues. Union representatives or legal advisors specialising in this area can also provide guidance.”

Poor mental health within the workplace also followed staff home, with 2 in 5 admitting stress from their jobs had a negative effect on their overall mental health. 37 per cent also struggled to switch off at night and 60 per cent suffered with “Sunday dread”. 

The most common contributors to poor mental health among the workforce are pressure from above and being set unrealistic deadlines. On average, many workers also spend an additional 27 minutes per day working — unpaid — which adds up to 2 and a half extra weeks of work per year. 

All of these factors led to people arguing with their families and missing personal events. 

This research carried out by Slater and Gordon further convinces us at Chasing the Stigma that people desperately need training in the workplace on mental health provision so that staff are able to access help and reduce their stress. This not only improves individual’s lives, but also the productivity of companies overall. If companies implement a decent mental health and wellbeing strategy, and support their staff, then the number of absences for mental health are likely to reduce and staff will become more productive within their working hours.

Many businesses and offices have already signed up to our Ambassador of Hope training programme, including 500 staff at Everton Football Club, 700 staff at The Regenda Group, 900 staff at the Disclosure and Barring Service, Liverpool City Council cabinet and senior staff, Thortful, System Group and many more. 

If you want to enquire about how our mental health training programme could be implemented across your business, then please get in touch.