Almost half of UK employees ‘disguising’ mental health problems as physical illnesses at work, study finds

A new report indicating that almost half of UK workers are ‘disguising’ their mental health issues as physical illnesses at work due to a fear of what their employers might think of them has caught the attention of London Employment Solicitors, Joelson.

This week, new research published by health insurance provider BHSF has revealed that some 42 per cent of employees have called in sick claiming to be suffering from flu, viral infections and more when in reality they are grappling with a mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

Upon surveying just over 1,000 full-time employees all across the UK, BHSF found that as few as 15 per cent felt comfortable speaking to their boss about mental health issues.

The report, entitled Hiding in plain sight: mental health in the workplace, also found that workplace stress was worryingly common among respondents, with more than half (56 per cent) of those surveyed citing ‘stress’ as an issue.

A further third (36 per cent) of respondents said that work-related anxiety had affected their mental health, while a quarter (25 per cent) said that they were suffering from depression.

Perhaps more worryingly, however, the survey found that the vast majority (88 per cent) of employees felt that work was either the main cause of – or a contributing factor to – their ongoing mental health issues.

Despite this, just 21 per cent said that they had received some form of mental health support from their employer, while almost two thirds (63 per cent) voiced concerns that there was a ‘stigma’ attached to mental health in their workplace, especially among their colleagues.

Dr Philip McCrea, of BHSF, said that the report should be viewed as a “reality check” for employers, whom he said needed to be “more proactive” in offering mental health support by placing a focus on “early intervention.”

“The scale of this problem is huge, and it is being massively underestimated by employers, with employees feeling that they have to mask the issues they are facing,” he said.

“A more open culture must be created in workplaces across the UK, and employers have to take responsibility for this change.”

London Employment Solicitors, Joelson, are experts in advising employers and senior-level executives on mental health-related workplace issues including dealing with associated Tribunal claims. To find out more, contact us today. 

David Greenhalgh

David Greenhalgh

Partner – Employment

+44 (0) 20 7580 5721

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.