Pressure at work can be motivating for some, but for others, excessive pressure can cause stress and depression in the workplace.

Psychological problems like this are behind one in five visits to a GP but is it a valid excuse to have time off work?

It’s shocking to see that there is still a taboo around talking about issues like stress, anxiety and depression at work and 69% of bosses in the UK believe mental illness does not warrant leave.

The common flu is more of a valid excuse according to research by mental health charity Mind and because of this, workers feel forced to go into work suffering with bad mental health fearing their management’s opinion of them.

On 11th January this year, David Cameron announced that almost a billion pounds will be invested within the next 12 months to enhance mental health services across the country.

With 1 in 4 expected to develop a problem such as a form of depression or anxiety this year alone, the Prime Minister pledged to stop sweeping mental health issues under the carpet and promised to place mental health services in every hospital emergency department. However, people of the UK suffering with mental illnesses are actually asking the government to do more to support them.

New research from First4lawyers shows that not only are working brits forced to work stressed or depressed because of employer’s impressions of mental illnesses, but the UK’s governmental statutory sick pay (SSP) is in fact the largest contributor to the amount of people feeling forced to work psychologically unwell.

On current sick pay terms in the UK, those that suffer with long term depression or work related stress for longer than 4 days are forced to live off SSP of just £88.45 a week totalling around £350 a month.

The average Brit’s monthly bills amount to roughly £850 leaving a deficit of £500 a month to keep up with their finances. Because sick pay in the UK is so low, data shows that 65% of mental illness sufferers are still going into work unwell.

Fear of sick leave?

Worryingly, a surprisingly high percentage of working Brits said they didn’t even know how little sick pay is and now that they do, it is no surprise to see that many fear having to take time off due to severe loss of income.

Many believed they would receive their full monthly wage when in fact that is not the case at all.

What can employers do differently?

In my opinion, not only do we need to address the cultural issues that make people fear taking time off sick but action needs to be taken to review what is paid when people are genuinely ill.

Employers do have the option to provide occupational sick pay (OSP) instead of SSP. This is where an organisation chooses to provide a contractual sick pay that is more generous than the legal minimum.

Good stress management in the workplace is critical to your overall health

Other support can include schemes that give discounted gym membership, access to health care and other medical services are a great way to show that a company cares about the well-being of their staff.

For employees, good stress management in the workplace is critical to your overall health. Saying yes can win you brownie points in the short term, but if you take on too much and fail to deliver, it can be a disastrous long-term strategy.

Employees experiencing this need to have confidence in saying ‘no’ when they think it's the right decision. Employers should respect that decision and spread the workload across numbers of staff.

Fit and healthy employees are the life-blood of business and the UK economy. Businesses shouldn’t be just thinking about the whether they pay sick employees but how they can keep their staff fit and well and what they need to do to help them recover.

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