50% of UK adults would not be honest about time off work for mental health

02 Aug 2021


Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the Olympic Games in order to look after her mental health has opened up discussions surrounding taking time away from work to manage mental wellbeing and whether people are able to be honest about this.

Research carried out by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health found that only half (50%) of UK adults would be honest about taking time off work for poor mental health.

Additional key statistics from Benenden Health’s research:

  • Three in ten (29%) admitted to covering up mental health absences by telling their employer they had a physical health problem instead.
  • A quarter (24%) of workers revealed that they had taken annual leave in order to avoid any awkward questions.
  • A third (35%) of UK employees took time off work due to poor mental health in 2020.
  • Mental health absences are estimated to be costing businesses around 40 million individual days of work, with workers absent for between two to five days on average.
  • Men are more likely to take time off due to mental health issues (37% compared to women (32%)
  • Almost half of 18-24 year olds (48%) have taken days off work for their mental health, compared to just a quarter (27%) of workers ages 55 and above.

Benenden Health launched a whitepaper looking at the impact of poor mental health on the UK workforce and encourages employers to talk with their employees and speak about pressures they may be facing, particularly related to mental health.

Bob Andrews, CEO at Benenden Health, said: “It comes as no great surprise to see that poor mental wellbeing had such a significant impact on employees and businesses across the UK, even before the pandemic hit.

“There continues to be a stigma around discussing our mental wellbeing and this is often more prevalent in the workplace than anywhere else. Unfortunately, businesses are too often unable to identify wellbeing issues, employees still feel like they can’t discuss them and there remains a lack of tangible support, all of which contribute to lost time and productivity for businesses as well as unaddressed poor employee wellbeing.

“The only way to tackle this is for businesses to prove to their employees that they genuinely care about their wellbeing, foster a culture of openness and provide the necessary internal and external support. By doing this, employers will be rewarded with fewer lost hours, a happier and more productive workforce and a workplace that is attractive to both current and prospective employees.”

For more information about Benenden Health and to download its report ‘The elephant that never left the office: Why stigma is still preventing employees from telling their boss the truth about their mental wellbeing in the workplace’, click here.