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1 in 4 Employers Notice Increase in Sick Leave Due to Mental Health

Published March 26, 2023 (last updated on March 4, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


According to a new survey conducted by Peninsula Group, a global Employment Law, Employment Relations, Health & Safety advisory, and consultancy firm; shows that the workplace stigma around mental health appears to have been lifted with 43% of employers stating that they have witnessed employees freely talking about their mental health in the last 12 months.

However, only 12% of employees have confided in their managers, and one in seven of those who did speak to their managers said that unfortunately nothing was done. A quarter of the survey respondents confirmed that they have noticed an increase in sick leave due to mental health. However, despite that, 90% of businesses do not offer mental health days to employees.

Furthermore, 94% of employers said they’re available to help staff who are struggling with mental health concerns however, the data suggests that the support being offered by employers doesn’t match up with the realistic expectations of what their employees need and want.

Two thirds of employers said they are confident their employees would talk to them and disclose mental health concerns, but less than 10% of bosses said that they are comfortable discussing their own personal mental health. The survey of 79,000 businesses across four countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the UK yielded the following results:

  • Employers in Canada and Australia are more likely to take time off work due to mental health compared to those in the UK or Ireland

  • More than two-thirds of managers in all four countries are comfortable discussing employees’ mental health concerns

  • 46% of UK employers have seen an increase in the number of people in their workplace experiencing issues with mental health

  • Canadian employers are more likely to offer mental health days in addition to personal leave entitlement than any other. 23% already offer them with another 15% planning to introduce them within the next 12 months

  • In comparison, 85% of employers in the UK, 81% in Ireland and 67% in Australia do not offer mental health days or plan to introduce them in the next 12 months

  • Ireland is seeing an increase in the number of people taking time off work to care for family members with mental health issues; it was the only one of the four countries surveyed where this ranked in the top three answers

Employsure CEO, David Price says, “A total of 3.2 days[1] per employee is lost each year due to work-related stress, and compensation claims directly related to work place stress has doubled in recent years costing the Australian economy over $10 billion a year. These are staggering numbers, and it should be clear to any employer that mental health is an area they need to take very seriously, and that message seems to be getting through.

“Healthy employees make for a healthy workplace, so it’s encouraging that many employers are comfortable with having conversations about their own and their employees’ mental health. We’ve all seen the drastic impact that recent world events have had with many struggling to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and business owners; especially SMEs, are no different. Many are under pressure like never before, and the cost-of-living crises coupled with rising energy costs are having a significant impact on employers and employees alike.”    

“People are speaking more openly about their mental health and prioritising their work life balance. It is, however, interesting to see a low uptake of employee assistance programs from employers who have themselves experienced mental health issues over the last 12 months. Most overwhelmingly, many opted to speak to friends and family; instead of engaging with their company EAP.”

“So, while employers are offering this support to employees, they should also remember that the service is there to support everyone – regardless of seniority within any organisation. We can also see an element of robustness within the survey responses; with more than half of Irish employers reportedly seeing no increase in the number of people experiencing mental health issues in their workplace.”

“44% of Canadian and Australian employers have also seen no increase, whilst only 38% of UK employers can say the same. It’s clear that there is still significant work to be done in this area. However, the willingness of people being able to openly discuss mental health concerns indicates a positive step in the right direction.”

[1] 1. Mental health in the workplace | Australian Human Rights Commission

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