An anxious-looking woman at a window

Poor mental health is UK's top reason for time off

Mental health issues were the primary reason for time off work during 2021, according to GoodShape's UK PLC 2021 Workforce Health Report. It reveals that, in 2021, poor mental health accounted for 19% of all lost working time across the country, followed by confirmed cases of COVID-19, which represented 16%. In total, UK workers took over 319 million days off work for illness or injury, at an estimated cost to employers of £43bn and counting.

Mental ill health was the most common cause of lost working time in nearly every industry, with absences averaging at least three times longer than for COVID-19-related reasons. 

However, the length of time taken off for each mental health-related absence differs significantly per sector, with employees in Government, construction and real estate and transport and logistics taking the longest time off for each instance. Alarmingly, 54% of workers who take two or more mental health-related absences will go on to leave their jobs.

Cost of absence 
The direct cost of worker absences on UK businesses has increased from an estimated £33bn in 2019 (Jan–Nov) to £43bn in 2021 (Jan – Nov), an increase of 31%. This reflects the increase in time taken off by employees for illness, increasing from approximately 250 million days in 2019 to over 319 million lost working days in 2021. The cost of these lost working days does not cover additional indirect costs such as hiring replacement staff, loss of business continuity, training and providing support to other staff, so the true cost is likely far higher.
GoodShape CEO, Alun Baker commented:

“The last year has seen a continued positive shift in workplace culture that’s allowed for more open conversations about mental health. It’s encouraging to see more employers acknowledge that meaningful and targeted wellbeing support is crucial for the ongoing health of their people and business. Yet, the pandemic has meant that across all industries, more is being expected of people and budgets. The good news is though, that the business community is realising that performance is inextricably linked with wellbeing and insight.”