39% would reveal if mental health issues are behind absence

Just 39% of respondents would admit to their boss that stress, anxiety or depression were the reasons for sickness absence, according to research by Axa PPP Healthcare


Its survey of 1,000 senior management and 1,000 non-executive employees found that 77% would inform their boss of the true reason for staying home from work if it is related to a physical ailment such as flu, injury or back pain, however.

The research also found:

  • 44% of respondents working for large organisations would reveal that stress, anxiety or depression were the reason for sickness absence. This figure drops to 37% for respondents at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • 23% of respondents will not reveal the true reason for sickness absence for fear of being judged.
  • 15% will not admit the reason they are off work because they are afraid of not being believed.
  • Less than half (42%) of senior managers think that flu is a valid reason for an employee to call in sick, and 39% agree that back pain is a serious enough reason for sickness absence.
  • Less than a quarter (22%) of senior managers believe that a migraine is a good enough reason for an employee to call in sick, while 35% think that that elective surgery, such as a knee replacement, warrants time off work.

Glen Parkinson (pictured), SME director at Axa PPP Healthcare, said: “With managers showing so little understanding of or support for employees suffering from illness, it’s not difficult to see why employees worry about phoning in sick.

“Employers need to challenge this blinkered attitude, both for their own benefit as well as that of their employees. In many cases, it is more productive for an employee to take a day off to recover from a spell of illness rather than to come into work, with diminished productivity and, for the likes of colds and flu, the potential to spread their illness to workmates.

“Employers need to trust employees to take the appropriate time off sick and, where practicable, consider allowing them to work from home. Showing sympathy and flexibility when employees are unwell is crucial to maintaining a healthy and committed workforce, which, in the long term, creates a healthier business.”