Workers who admit to stress ‘face sack’

Workers who admit to feeling stressed or depressed fear being sacked or forced out of their jobs, according to a report from mental health charity Mind.

Workers who admit to feeling stressed or depressed fear being sacked or forced out of their jobs, according to a report from mental health charity Mind.

Research for Mind’s Taking care of business campaign found that 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.

Some 22% of those who had disclosed a mental health problem in a previous job said they had been fired or forced to quit. Mind surveyed over 2,000 workers and 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.

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," says the charity. "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."

The survey found 41% of employees said stress is a ‘taboo’ topic; 46% said time off for stress was seen as an ‘excuse’ for something else and 1 in 4 said they would be deemed less capable than others if they admitted to feeling stressed.

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."

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.




Comments [1]

  • Anonymous says:

    I had a senior management job in a large global corporation – a company with very good policies and support for employees. However, I got a new boss who was very old fashioned, did not believe in flexible working, working from home etc (all things which were in place but dependant on individual Managers to support). Her arrival coincided with me developing very bad vertigo and high blood pressure – caused by work-induced stress (I was travelling constantly and working very long hours). I was off work for 3 weeks (first time in 21 years I’d been off more than a few days) and when I returned, I didn’t get the supportive "return to work" interview I was trained to do with my own staff – instead I was grilled for 20 minutes, told how I’d let everyone down and also that I was "fixated" on working from home (this in response to me asking about a phased return to work). This woman didn’t know me at all – she had only been there for 6 weeks. One month later I was made redundant – it was done via liaison between this new manager and her manager in the US, who was happy to cut costs. Even HR were not told until the day before I was told – they were kept in the dark. I am convinced it was because I admitted to being off with stress – I think this new woman thought I’d sue the company (which I would not have done). I wish I’d pretended I had something else, such as flu. But they insisted it was a normal redundancy and the decision was made before I was off sick, so I could do nothing about it. I’ve managed to pick myself up now, but it’s taken me four months to get over the shock and anger. My point is – no matter how good a company’s policies are – it seems that one rogue Manager can undo a lot of good and cause a lot of trouble if they are given the power to do so.


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