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Only one in five think stress is acceptable reason for time off

Researchers found only 17% of people considered broader mental health issues as a reason not to go to work

Only 19% of British people believe stress is an acceptable reason to have a day off work, according to research from mutual health and wellbeing provider Benenden.

The researchers found that an even lower 17% of people considered broader mental health issues as a reason not to go into the office.

Physical illnesses were deemed to be the most acceptable reasons for calling in sick, with vomiting (73%), diarrhoea (71%), and flu (59%) high on the list.

Head of workplace wellbeing at Mind Emma Mamo told HR magazine that there is still a taboo around talking about issues like stress, anxiety and depression at work.

“A YouGov poll commissioned by Mind found that of those workers who had needed to take time off sick due to stress, just 5% admitted to their boss that it was stress-related,” she said. “It’s no surprise staff worry about opening up about their mental health given that this research shows most people don’t view mental health problems and stress as being as serious as a physical health problem.

“Even if an employee does disclose a mental health problem, their manager might not know how to support them. Many managers may not feel they have the skills or resources to support a member of staff who is struggling with their mental health."

She added: “Simple, inexpensive measures such as offering regular catch ups with managers, flexible working hours, and employee assistance programmes can all make a huge difference to staff wellbeing."

Almost half (48%) of the respondents said that they felt their employer did not care about their physical or mental wellbeing, and 28% had to book a full day off work to see their doctor.

Benenden group people director Inji Duducu said there seems to be a clear lack of understanding from some employers around the importance of employee wellbeing.

“With 82% of employers not taking out healthcare, companies are short-sighted for not investing in their workers' health – and with 76% of people saying they perform best when they feel good about their health this will directly impact any company’s bottom line and should not be ignored," she said.

“Among the 2,500 employees questioned half believe that if their employer was more engaged with their wellbeing it would make them want to do a better job. As employers it makes sense to talk about workplace wellbeing and take positive steps to support and maintain good employee mental and physical health."