Press release:

Seventeen and a half million working days lost to poor mental health

Thursday 07 November 2019

Seventeen and a half million working days lost to poor mental health

Recently published ONS figures has shown that 17.5 million working days each year are lost due to mental health related sickness, highlighting the need for middle and senior managers to find solutions to this growing problem affecting productivity in the workplace.

A survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) of 940 managers across the UK showed that over half (51%) of managers have had a member of staff disclose a mental health problem.

CMI research identified that the majority of managers are now having to manage staff with mental health problems, but only half have been trained to deal with mental health in the workplace.

Managers are having to manage a wide range of mental health problems. This includes more common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and stress - as well as less common problems such as eating disorders, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Line managers play a pivotal role in supporting employee health and wellbeing, and should be a key source of advice and support for those suffering with mental health problems at work. However, CMI’s survey found that around half of all managers (49%) had never received any training on managing mental health in the workplace.

The lack of training was most apparent with older, senior managers. 51% of senior managers had never received training on managing mental health in the workplace, compared to 44% of junior managers. And 52% of older managers (over 50) had never received training, compared to 42% of younger managers (18-29).

CMI CEO, Ann Francke, said:

“Line managers play a critical role in supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing; they may be the first port of call for someone who is struggling, or they may be best placed to notice when a colleague’s demeanor changes. But they need to be equipped and empowered to do so.

“CMI research has shown that in too many cases managers are not receiving the training they need to be effective in supporting their teams. I call on all managers to consider how they can best show that they are available to talk to any members of staff who may need it”.

Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of MHFA England commented: “As the CMI’s survey data highlight, giving managers the tools to support themselves and their teams is crucial. From our work with over 20,000 employers, we have seen the difference that evidence-based mental health training makes – empowering people to talk openly about mental health and seek help when needed.” /p>

“Research consistently shows that only a minority of people disclose mental illness as a reason for sickness absence. This tells us that the ONS’s Labour Force Survey is likely capturing the tip of an iceberg at 17.5 million working days lost. And it is why going above and beyond to act on workplace mental health and wellbeing is so important.”

- Ends -

Media contact:

John Kaponi Head of Media Relations, CMI

Notes to editors

Chartered Management Institute

  • The Chartered Management Institute is the chartered professional body for management and leadership, counting more than 132,000 managers and leaders in its membership community up from 105,000 (a 26% increase).
  • There are 6,856 Chartered Managers up 10% from 6,249 (2018)
  • Backed by a unique Royal Charter, CMI is the only organisation able to award Chartered Manager status - the ultimate management accolade, which is proven to boost individuals’ career prospects, management capability and impact in the workplace.

Manager’s Voice

  • The Manager's Voice is a survey undertaken by CMI of their practising members. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th November and 4th December 2018 and 940 UK-based members responded. Senior leaders refer to CEOs, Managing Partners, Directors and Senior Managers.
  • CMI’s 2016 Quality of Working Life report found that improving health and wellbeing in the workplace may need dedicated action across the organisation to change the culture and reshape negative attitudes. CMI recommended:Tackle taboos – Start conversations and provide information that makes it easier to ask for help. Engage managers – managers can have a direct impact on the motivation, engagement and ultimately on the wellbeing levels of the people they work with. They need to be informed and engaged on quality of working life and wellbeing issues. Don’t leave it to HR.
  • Understanding personal management styles – Provide management and leadership development that helps managers to reflect on their own behaviours and the impact of their actions.

ONS Figures

  • 141.4 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2018 - equivalent to 4.4 days per worker, or 2.0% of all absences.
  • The four most common reasons for sickness absence were: minor illnesses (coughs/colds), musculoskeletal problems (back/limb pain), other conditions (accidents, poisonings, diabetes) and mental health conditions (stress, depression, anxiety)
  • Minor illnesses caused 27.2% of sickness absence, whilst common mental health disorders caused 12.4% of absences.
  • Women had higher rates of sickness absences than men, but rates of absence have approximately halved since 1995. A negligible increase (not significant) has occurred in absence rates since 2016. Women lost 2.5% of their working hours in 2018 due to sickness or injury, whilst men lost just 1.6% of hours.
  • There is regional variation in sickness absence as well: London had an absence rate of 1.4% (the least) , and Wales and Scotland both had the highest rates of absence (2.4%)
  • People with a long term health condition were three times more likely to be absent from work due to sickness than those without a condition (4.4% compared to 1.1%)
  • Managers had the lowest rate of sickness absence (1.3%, LOWER THAN THE NATIONAL AVERAGE), compared to other professions.