Workers face the sack for admitting they feel stressed
Posted Monday 16 May 2011
Today Mind presents alarming new evidence that workers who admit to feeling stressed or depressed fear being sacked or forced out of their jobs.
Research for Mind’s Taking care of business campaign found that right now, work is the most stressful thing in people’s lives, but 1 in 5 people believe that if they mentioned their stress levels they would be put first in line for redundancy 1.
Shockingly, the charity also found that workers’ fears weren’t unfounded, with 22% of those who had disclosed a mental health problem in a previous job saying they had been fired or forced to quit2.
Mind’s survey of over 2000 workers found:
- 41% are currently stressed or very stressed in their jobs – making it more stressful than money worries, marriage and relationships or health issues
- 2 in 3 had been put under more pressure by management since the downturn
- A third feel stressed by a reduction to budgets in their workplace
- 48% are scared to take time off sick
- 28% are stressed by the threat of redundancy, rising to 41% for public sector
- 1 in 5 fear mentioning stress would put them first in line for redundancy
- 7 in 10 said their boss would not help them cope with stress
Each year, millions of workers experience stress, depression and anxiety 3 but Mind is concerned that unaddressed mental health issues are reaching fever pitch as hard-pressed businesses pass on the strain to workers. Budget cuts and job losses have radically impacted on our mental health with the most stressful aspects of today’s workplace being excessive workload, unrealistic targets, the threat of redundancy and frustration with poor management. However, despite the huge increases in pressure, staff are reluctant to speak up for fear they will be perceived as ‘weak’ or ‘less capable’ than colleagues – and shortlisted for job cuts.
Mind found appalling attitudes towards mental health at work:
- 41% said stress is a ‘taboo’ topic
- 46% said time off for stress was seen as an ‘excuse’ for something else
- 1 in 4 said they would be deemed less capable than others if they admitted to feeling stressed
- Of those who had disclosed a mental health problem to their boss in a previous role, 22% had been sacked or forced out of their jobs
The figures confirm that despite the widespread prevalence of mental health problems, stigma and discrimination are so rife that mental health has become an elephant in the room. Every year British businesses lose £26 billion in sickness absence and lost productivity, or £1035 per employee. However, with greater awareness and mental health support, businesses could save one third of these costs - a mammoth £8 billion a year 4.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said:
The negativity that persists around stress and mental health problems is unacceptable in a modern workforce. Pressure and stress may be part of our working lives, but failing to recognise that everyone has a limit is a mistake that costs businesses billions of pounds a year. Stigma is so great employees worry that even mentioning stress will lose them their jobs. Mental health problems exist in every workforce, but at the moment it exists as a costly and unaddressed elephant in the room.
Right now, 1 in 6 workers have a mental health issue such as stress, depression or anxiety, and workers are under more pressure than ever before as staff numbers decrease, work increases, and people worry if they’ll even have a job to go to tomorrow. Rather than shying away from the issue, it’s more important than ever that businesses invest in staff wellbeing and encourage an open culture, where staff can come forward about the pressures they are feeling and be supported.
Making your workplace more mentally healthy doesn’t need to cost the earth. Simple, practical changes can have big results such as making sure your staff take proper breaks or giving them the chance to talk about work pressures. Some businesses are already seeing this approach pay off, reducing sickness absence, cutting costs and being rewarded with a productive and committed workforce. It’s time for all employers to change their attitudes towards mental health problems at work.
Mind’s Taking care of business campaign aims to transform the way our workplaces address mental health issues. The charity has already won the backing of major businesses such as AXA, BT and Deloitte and is calling on all employers to lift the taboos around mental health at work, and create an open culture where employees can discuss mental health without fear of the consequences.
AXA PPP psychological support expert Eugene Farrell said:
You don’t create a positive workplace culture just by saying so – you have to nurture it by treating your people well, promoting their health and wellbeing and also by being there to support them when things get them down. Helping people to deal with the pressures in their lives is one of the best investments an employer can make.
Mind is calling for:
- Employers to encourage open and supportive work environments, where employees can discuss mental health without fear of discrimination
- Employers to treat mental health problems with the same importance as physical health problems
- Employers to ensure protecting mental health is embedded in change management, in order to manage extra pressure on remaining staff
- Businesses of all sizes to make supporting staff wellbeing a corporate priority
- Businesses to introduce workplace mental health policies that promote wellbeing for all staff, tackle work-related mental health problems and support staff who are experiencing mental distress.
Mind week events:
17 May Mind Business Summit supported by AXA
Guest speakers include Lord Freud, BITC, National Grid and Deloitte.
A closed event for senior private sector employers to explore the challenges they face around mental health at work, and how to overcome them.
20 May Wake up your Mind workplace breakfasts
Workers across the country will be supporting Mind’s campaign by holding a bonding breakfast fundraiser with their colleagues. Celebrity chef Lorraine Pascale has contributed a delicious flapjack recipe for those with a sweet tooth.
Local Mind Associations
Many of our local Mind associations will be holding events across England and Wales to celebrate Mind week. To find out what's happening in your area visit: www.mind.org.uk/work
Join Mind’s campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to search for the elephant in the room and tell us your experiences of mental health at work.
Mind’s 106 shops across England and Wales will be asking shoppers to share their experiences on our ‘elephant in the room’ postcards. Find your nearest branch online.
- Populus interviewed 2,006 adults in employment in England and Wales online between 25 and 28 February 2011, and 4-6 March 2011. Data have been weighted to be representative of all GB adults in terms of gender, age, SEG and region. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rule, for more information see www.populus.co.uk
- Of the 2,006 people surveyed, 516 had experienced a mental health problem while in employment, and 294 had told their boss
- Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2009
- Centre for Mental Health (2007) 'Mental Health at work: developing the business case' London: SCMH
Notes to editors
- For more information about Mind's Taking care of business campaign, interviews or case studies please contact the Mind media team on
T: 020 8522 1743
M: 07850 788514
ISDN line available: 020 8221 0817.
- Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.
- Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.