Is it appropriate to take sick leave for mental health issues?

If employees are unable to work because of illness, whether that's physical or mental, then the normal rules of sickness absence according to the organisation should kick in, according to ELAS Group's Pam Rogerson.

A recent survey conducted by PwC found that 34 per cent of employees in the UK are facing health and well-being problems. Two in five of those surveyed said they had taken time off because of mental health issues.

These days, people spend the majority of their time in work, and the extent to which a job can affect personal wellbeing cannot be understated. A company cannot remain productive and profitable if their employees are mentally exhausted. With the cost of replacing staff lost due to mental health conditions reported to be £2.4 billion per year in the UK alone, employers are taking steps to help their employees combat mental illness and building a culture of acceptance and support within the workplace.

Pam Rogerson, HR director for the ELAS Group, believes that gone are the days when HR was accused of not being sympathetic to mental illness as it affects so many of us at one time or another during our working lives. “HR departments are more in tune than they are given credit for when it comes to mental health. Many have employee assistance programmes to specifically help with situations that can arise from stress within the workplace or factors in an employee’s personal life, encouraging counselling and support from experts where possible.”

If employees are unable to work because of illness, whether that’s physical or mental, then the normal rules of sickness absence according to the organisation should kick in, according to Rogerson. “People are more open about mental health in the workplace these days and this encourages others to feel more comfortable about telling the truth behind their reasons for absence, instead of merely masking it by claiming a headache or sickness bug as happened so often in the past.”

“All employers should know that some forms of mental illness are a disability and, as an employee, you are heavily protected from any form of discrimination under the Disability Protection Act.”

Making employers aware of any mental health conditions or concerns can help them put support measures in place to help, whether this is making arrangements for flexible working, arranging counselling or just having someone to talk to, she added. “Support can be individually tailored in the way that is best for both you and the company. In this day and age, nobody should be embarrassed to call in sick due to mental health issues.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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