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Workers sceptical about colleagues who take time off for mental health issues

One in five British workers (20 per cent) are sceptical about colleagues who take time off as a result of mental health issues such as depression, stress or anxiety, new research has revealed.

The study of 1,388 workers commissioned by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, also found that 14 per cent still do not believe stress is a genuine mental health condition. This is despite the fact more than a quarter (29 per cent) claim to have suffered from mental health problems at some point themselves.

“These results highlight the extent of the challenge employers face in educating their staff about the serious nature of mental health issues,” said Mike Blake, Director at Willis PMI Group.

“Stress and mental ill health are both among the top four causes of long-term absence for manual and non-manual workers.1 Therefore, it is crucial businesses overcome the traditional stigma attached to these conditions in order to create a more open, empathetic culture. Doing this will allow them to better identify sufferers, provide effective treatment and make the return to work process smoother and less daunting for the employee.”

The Willis PMI Group study further revealed that 48 per cent of UK employees have worked with a colleague who suffered from mental health issues. Twenty-one per cent of workers also believe colleagues who have previously suffered from mental health issues are less able to fulfil their job role properly.

Blake added: “From a risk perspective, there is potential for a rise in Employers’ Liability claims related to stress and mental health. Therefore companies can leave themselves badly exposed if they fail to provide sufferers with a clear pathway for reintegration into the workforce.

“There are clear implications for productivity and sickness absence too, but the effects can be mitigated by implementing a comprehensive framework for tackling mental health issues that includes proper data capture, company culture, benefits and wellbeing schemes.”

1 Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, Absence Management Survey 2015