One in five British workers are sceptical about colleagues who take time off as a result of mental health issues such as depression, stress or anxiety, research finds.
Some 14 per cent of workers still do not believe stress is a genuine mental health condition, according to a survey by Willis PMI Group.
This is despite the fact more than a quarter (29 per cent) claim to have suffered from mental health problems at some point themselves.
Mike Blake, director at Willis PMI Group says the results highlight the extent of the challenge employers face in educating their staff about the serious nature of mental health issues.
'Stress and mental ill health are both among the top four causes of long-term absence for manual and non-manual workers. Therefore, it is crucial businesses overcome the traditional stigma attached to these conditions in order to create a more open, empathetic culture,' he says.
'Doing this will allow them to better identify sufferers, provide effective treatment and make the return to work process smoother and less daunting for the employee.'
The study of 1,388 people further reveals that 48 per cent of UK employees have worked with a colleague who suffered from mental health issues.
Some 21 per cent of workers also believe colleagues who have previously suffered from mental health issues are less able to fulfil their job role properly.
Blake adds that, from a risk perspective, there is potential for a rise in Employers’ Liability claims related to stress and mental health, and companies can leave themselves badly exposed if they fail to provide sufferers with a clear pathway for reintegration into the workforce.
'There are clear implications for productivity and sickness absence too, but the effects can be mitigated by implementing a comprehensive framework for tackling mental health issues that includes proper data capture, company culture, benefits and wellbeing schemes,' he says.
Further reading on absence
See also: Blue Mondays