Nov 19, 2018

Press Release: Britons Lie About Mental Health Absences, Instead Blaming a Cold, Flu or Family Emergencies

A recent UK study has revealed that almost half of Britons who have taken time off work due to suffering mental health issues, lied to their employer about their reason for absence; instead blaming a cold, the flu or family emergencies.

Even though more than half of Britons have taken time off work for their mental wellbeing, UK workers still aren’t completely comfortable with being open with their employers about these issues, 46% of these confessed to hiding their mental ill-health from their workplace, blaming embarrassment, shame and fear of looking weak.

The team at income protection provider conducted the research in a bid to find out more about Britons’ attitudes towards mental health. A total of 2,108 adults, aged 18 and over from the UK, were quizzed as part of the study. All respondents revealed that they had a full-time job, which they’d worked in for at least two years, prior to the poll.

Initially participants were asked, “Have you ever had to take time off work due to mental ill-health?” to which more than half (51%) revealed that they had at some point in their career. When these respondents were asked whether they were honest with their employer about the nature of their absence, 54% said they were, but 46% revealed that they lied.

Relevant respondents were asked what they instead blamed their absence on when in reality their mental health was suffering, with the following five answers emerging as the most common responses:

1. A cold – 29%

2. Flu – 22%

3. Family emergency – 16%

4. Stomach problems – 13%

5. Sore throat – 9%

When relevant participants were questioned as to why they felt the need to lie to their employer, being embarrassed (29%), feeling ashamed (27%), fear of looking weak (19%) and fear of not being taken seriously (17%) topped the list.

89% of all the respondents taking part in the poll said that they did not think enough was done by their workplace to support employees struggling with mental health issues.

Finally, all participants were asked ‘If you had to take time off work due to a mental health issue tomorrow, would you be open and honest with your boss?’. Just 32% said they would, with the remaining 68% admitting that they would lie.

Louise Baker, Head of HR at, said:

"It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see that so many working Britons do not feel like they can be honest with their employer when it comes to mental health issues. Mental health is such an important topic and those who are suffering should feel comfortable speaking to their boss about their reason for absence without fear, embarrassment or shame. More needs to be done by employers up and down the country to ensure their employees are never too scared to approach them if they are struggling.”

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